What appeared to be an aggressive strategy by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to monitor farms that have had violative drug residues will apparently be replaced by a less-obtrusive “non-regulatory sampling survey.”

The change in plans was mentioned on Friday by William Flynn, deputy director for science policy at the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, at the annual meeting of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners in St. Louis.

He acknowledged there were concerns over an earlier plan to monitor approximately 900 dairies that have had violative drug residues in the tissues of slaughtered dairy cows. The premise behind that plan was that farms with violative residues in cull cows might also be the ones most likely to have violative residues in milk samples.

But industry groups objected.  For one thing, it would have taken about three to four days to get results back from a test that the FDA wanted to use to screen for 26 different drugs. It would have held up bulk tanks and impeded the marketing of milk from those farms. 

On Friday, Flynn said the FDA is still looking at testing a sub-category of farms that have had violative drug residues in the past.  But, he said, it would be a survey rather than a regulatory action. 

At this point, it looks like the plan would::  

  • Not impede the marketing of milk.  
  • Be a “blind” study, which means regulators won't be able to tie a specific sample back to a specific farm. 
  • Sample milk from a representative sample of farms besides those that have had violative residues in cull cows. That way, regulators would know how the past violators are doing in comparison to the industry as a whole.  

Flynn told Dairy Herd Management that a timetable hasn’t been determined yet.

“This plan has not been finalized,” he said. “We’re still working with the milk industry and regulatory partners.”