Our United States dairy industry has a track record of a high-quality product free of antibiotics, whether our customers realize it or not. Due to protocols in place on-farm, in-transport, and in-plant we've taken steps to seal up safety holes in our milk supply.
Despite that, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration took the initiative to survey farms in 2012 – 900 previous violators of beef residue rules and 900 random farms – in a double-blind study to look for additional residues beyond the beta lactam drugs for which there are routine tests.
The correlation makes sense, but why FDA didn't only pick previous violators to potentially take corrective action against or simply take a representative sample of the nation's milk supply is unknown.
If you're a consumer reading this, please know that milk is routinely tested for antibiotics and discarded if any appears – at cost to the farmer. The same is true for beef, and in both cases farms have an amazing track record. In 2013, the National Milk Drug Residue Database FY 2013 report says that 0.014% of bulk milk trucks had accidental residues, while 0.000% of consumer-ready products had any residue. To be clear, both numbers are less than one-tenth of 1 percent.
A federal government employee with access to the long-delayed report on the FDA sampling study spoke to Dairy Herd Management on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the still-classified information. The source confirmed that residues were found, but none in a statistically significant result, and that one drug would be the main culprit. When asked if they still consumed milk after reading the report, the source chuckled and quickly said, "Yes."
FDA tested for the additional medicines at levels much lower than those allowed by law. Like nearly all paper currency has traces of cocaine on their surface, it is also quite possible the fractured remnants of drugs are at a low-enough level they wouldn't trigger any alarm or be true findings in a real-life scenario.
Controversial science group asking for information
Last Wednesday, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) announced their filing of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine, urging them to release the information immediately. The Center for Consumer Freedom warns that CSPI has a bias against dairy and meat, as their vegetarian co-founder helps the group battle against biotech food crops, soft drinks, and ice cream.
"Consumers have a right to know what's in their milk, and if there are dangerous drugs in it, they need to know what FDA is doing about that," said CSPI senior food safety attorney David Plunkett in a post on the CSPI website. "Why are those dairies that either can't or won't follow the rules allowed to continue to market milk?"