The FDA's annual analysis shows dairy consumers are safe when it comes to animal drug residues in milk.
Natzke dave
Editor / Progressive Dairy

During fiscal year 2019 (FY19) (Oct. 1, 2018 – Sept., 30, 2019), about 4 million milk samples were tested for animal drug residues. Of those, just 556 tested positive, according to FDA’s National Milk Drug Residue Database Fiscal Year 2019 report.

The Grade “A” Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO), which governs the state regulatory agencies in the implementation and enforcement of their Grade A milk safety program, require that all bulk milk tankers be sampled and analyzed for animal drug residues before the milk is processed. Any bulk milk tanker found positive is rejected for human consumption.

The number of samples testing positive for drug residues in FY19 was down from the year before, and the lowest number of milk samples that tested positive for a drug residue in the 25 years data is available. By fiscal year, the number of milk samples testing positive for drug residues was:

  • 2019 – 556
  • 2018 – 584
  • 2017 – 605
  • 2016 – 618
  • 2015 – 579
  • 2014 – 703
  • 2013 – 731
  • 2012 – 828

State and local agencies conduct drug residue tests at four locations:

  • Bulk milk pickup tankers (bulk raw milk from a dairy farm): Samples are taken on receipt of every tanker load at a milk receiving facility. Of nearly 3.6 million samples, 327 (0.009%, or 9/1,000 of 1%) tested positive, resulting in the disposal of 14.7 million pounds of milk.

  • Producer (raw milk obtained from the bulk tank and/or silo from a dairy farm): Of 333,125 total samples, 223 (0.067%) tested positive.

  • Other (milk from milk plant tanks and/or silos, milk transport tankers, etc.): Of 59,750 total samples, five (0.008%) tested positive.

  • Samples of pasteurized fluid milk and milk products (Finished dairy products in bulk or package form, after pasteurization, including milk, cream, condensed and dry milk and milk products, and condensed and dry whey and whey products were tested.): Of 32,097 total samples, one (0.003%) tested positive for animal drug residues.

Overall, 15.33 million pounds of milk were found positive for a drug residue and disposed of in FY19, down from FY18’s total of 16.06 million pounds.

Testing for specific drugs

In addition to testing for the presence of any drug residues, specific tests seek to identify residues from five different groups or individual drugs using 21 different testing methods.

Of the 567 testing positive, 558 samples were positive for beta lactams, five were positive for sulfonamides and four was positive for tetracyclines.

Of the 558 samples positive for beta lactams, 325 were drawn from bulk milk pickup tankers, 229 were in samples drawn from bulk tanks and/or silos from a dairy farms, and three were from milk plant tanks and/or silos and milk transport tankers. One sample of a pasteurized product was found positive for beta lactams and was determined to be from an on-farm processor. The product was removed from sale and properly discarded.

Mandatory drug residue reporting is required by state regulatory agencies under the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS). NCIMS is a voluntary organization directed and controlled by member states to promote the availability of a high-quality milk supply.

The FDA and NCIMS, through their collaborative efforts, have developed a cooperative, federal-state program (the Grade “A” Interstate Milk Shippers Program) to ensure the sanitary quality of Grade A milk and milk products shipped in interstate commerce.

The National Milk Drug Residue Data Base (NMDRD) is a voluntary industry reporting program under contract to the FDA. Data reported to the NMDRD are for educational and analytical purposes, and are not intended or suitable for regulatory action or follow-up.

The system includes all milk, Grade A and non-Grade A, commonly known as manufacturing grade. Grade A milk represents approximately 99% of the milk supply in the U.S. and is regulated through the NCIMS by the state regulatory agencies.  end mark

Dave Natzke