Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Testing to Ensure there are No Antibiotic Residues in Milk

Cow health is very important on our farm. We work to keep our animals healthy and comfortable limiting the need for medications. A key to cow health is providing the animals with nutritious food, clean water, and a comfortable living environment.

Everyone on our farm observes the cows daily so we notice if an animal is ill. If a cow is sick, we provide the treatment she needs to be healthy again. Sick animals go to the hospital pen where they get the special attention they need. The hospital cows are still milked during treatment, but their milk is dumped down the drain. Her milk will continue to be dumped until the treatment is complete and the medicine is clear in her system.

To ensure there are no antibiotic residues in the milk, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that every truckload of milk – organic and regular – be tested for antibiotics when it arrives at the processing plant. Any milk that is determined to be positive is rejected. This rarely happens, only 0.014% (14 thousandths of 1%) of the tanker-level samples of raw milk (429 out 3.15 million) tested positive for antibiotics in 2014. Any load testing positive is discarded.

From small creameries, like the one we have on our farm, to large milk processing plants, everyone must follow the same milk testing protocols to ensure there are no antibiotic residues in milk.

Me taking a milk sample from our vat pasteurizer
I use the Delvotest to check milk for antibiotic residue
The three vials in the block heater: 1) sample of current milk in vat, 2) negative control, 3) positive control
          The results: 1) current vat sample is yellow (no drug residue found), 2)  negative control is yellow, 3) positive control is purple

In addition to testing raw milk, finished product is also tested to insure its free of antibiotic residues. In FDA’s most recent annual report, no antibiotics were found in milk headed to stores. Of the 37,707 retail-ready milk samples tested last year, none were positive. Nor did it find antibiotics in milk headed to market in 2011, 2012 or 2013.

Dairy farmers have strong incentives to keep their milk free of antibiotics. In the rare instance of a positive test at the plant, the milk is rejected and the farmer is financially liable for the entire truck load. If there were another violation by the same farmer, state regulators would apply more severe penalties, such as a fine and/or revoking the farmer’s license to sell milk.

We take cow health and milk quality very seriously. We’re proud of the milk produced on our farm!


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