Study confirms that U.S. milk is free of animal drug residue

RICHMOND—A recently released Food and Drug Administration annual report on milk drug residue says milk produced in the United States is free of animal drug residues.

In February the FDA released its annual National Milk Drug Residue Data analysis of animal drug residue tests in milk for Oct. 1, 2011, through Sept. 30, 2012.

All 50 states and Puerto Rico submitted data for the analysis. The samples came from raw milk taken at the farm, bulk milk pickup tankers, pasteurized fluid milk and pasteurized packaged products, along with other random tests throughout the supply chain.

Of the 3.8 million samples tested, only 828 non-processed, or raw, milk samples tested positive for animal drug residues, which is .017 percent.

All processing plants are required to test raw milk prior to receiving it. Raw milk that tests positive for animal drug residue is rejected at the plant and must be discarded.

Zero positive drug residue results were reported in finished products, which are the products consumers find on store shelves.

“These results show that consumers should feel confident that dairy farmers and processing plants are doing an excellent job in keeping the milk supply free of animal drug residues,” said Carolyn Peterson, dairy and foods program supervisor for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Leigh Pemberton, a third-generation Hanover County dairy farmer and member of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation Dairy Advisory Committee, said it’s a point of pride that milk from his farm is safe.

“It has to be a clean product, or we can’t sell it,” Pemberton said. “We consume milk, and we’re not going to produce something that isn’t safe for us or for others. We’ve been at this a long time. My grandfather started milking cows in 1898. We take pride in knowing that the milk we ship is a clean, safe product.”

On Pemberton’s farm, anytime a cow is treated with any drugs, the animal’s udder is marked with red identification paint so whoever is milking the cow knows to discard the milk.

“We dispose of all milk that comes from a cow while it is on a medication; we don’t even feed that milk to the calves,” Pemberton said.

After an appropriate amount of time, which varies depending on the medication, the cow is marked with green identification paint to indicate that its milk can be used again.

Contact Elaine Lidholm, VDACS director of communications, at 804-786-7686, or Sara Owens, VFBF communications, at 804-290-1133.

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