Dairy Industry Fights FDA's Proposed New Drug Testing for Milk


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The dairy industry is butting heads with the FDA over the agency's plan to increase testing for antibiotics in milk. Food safety advocates are concerned about overuse of drugs in dairy cows (and increased antibiotic resistance in humans), while the industry says the new testing procedures would cause a lot of milk to be wasted because the results can take a full week to come back.

Certain farms are already caught regularly with milk containing illegal levels of drugs—and farmers also use drugs that are not regularly tested for. The New York Times reports that the FDA had planned to test milk from about 900 dairy farms with a history of sending cows to slaughter while showing illegal levels of drugs.

Drugs can persist in an animal's system "because of misuse of medicines on the farm," reports the Times, which "can include exceeding the prescribed dose or injecting a drug into muscle instead of a vein." Farmers are also known to ignore rules about the minimum wait time after administering drugs before sending an animal to slaughter or into milk production.

The agency said in a statement: "F.D.A. is concerned that the same poor management practices which led to the meat residues may also result in drug residues in milk."

More from the Times:

It said it would test for about two dozen antibiotics beyond the six that are typically tested for. The testing would also look for a painkiller and anti-inflammatory drug popular on dairy farms, called flunixin, which often shows up in the slaughterhouse testing....

The industry worried that, under the F.D.A. plan, by the time a load of milk was found to be contaminated, it could already be in consumers' refrigerators, and that could lead to recalls.

One Northeast cooperative, Agri-Mark, sent a letter to its members last month instructing them to dump milk if it had been tested by the F.D.A. "Agri-Mark must ensure that all of our milk sales, cheese, butter and other products are in no danger of recall," the letter said.

Consumer safety can't be a priority for an industry that is against testing because it would rather not deal with a recall—apparently reducing the amount of drugs used, which presumably would reduce chances of a recall being issued, is not an option.

The FDA has said it will consult with the industry before proceeding.

State-level dairy controversy, too
In semi-related news, the New Mexico State Supreme Court stopped the governor this morning from halting publication of a new dairy industry regulation despite that it was passed by the Water Quality Control Commission in December—and it turns out that the dairy industry had helped her write the executive order.

From the New Mexico Independent:

The dairy rule in question would require dairy owners install synthetic barriers to stop groundwater contamination from cow waste.

The court documents show that lawyers for the Dairy Group helped "draft some language" for the executive order.

"Our attorneys (for the Dairy Group) Dal Moellenberg and TJ Trujillo of Gallagher & Kennedy drafted some language for the ex. order. We all assumed the environmentalist groups would sue and obviously they have."


More on the dairy industry and regulation:
USDA Funds Domino's Secret $12 Million Bailout
USDA Fighting Obesity With One Hand, Promoting High-Fat Cheese With The Other
World Dairy Industry Equals 4 Percent of Man-Made Greenhouse Gas Emissions
8 Reasons You Should Stop Drinking Milk Now
The FDA Releases the Amount of Antibiotics Used in Factory Farmed Livestock and It's a Ton

Tags: Agriculture | Antibiotics | Organic Agriculture