The safety of food can be such a confusing topic, and not one that can always be solved by a “smell check.” The internet is bustling with lists of foods that we shouldn’t eat – dairy products often topping the charts. Too common are milk, cheese and yogurt touted as “unsafe” due to the claims that dairy cows who produce milk are raised on unloving, “factory farms” who feed them antibiotics to increase their size and production.
Dairy farm families have made great efforts to dispel these myths by sharing stories of their dairy farms, which make up 97 percent of the dairy farms in our country, explaining the reasons they use antibiotics on the farm, and steps taken to ensure milk’s safety. Still, sometimes the best proof of a food’s safety is not in a story but in a statistic.
The annual report of the National Milk Drug Residue Database for fiscal year 2013 was released in February 2014. This particular report is voluntarily conducted by an industry reporting program contracted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). All 50 states, including Puerto Rico, submit data for the report, providing a thorough snapshot of the animal drug residues found in milk during the year.
Results of this study demonstrated that not a single sample out of more than 40,000 pasteurized fluid milk or milk products tested positive for drug residues in 2013. What does this mean for consumers? Consumers can be confident that when they purchase milk from the grocery store, either conventional or milk that is organic certified, they are purchasing milk that is free of commonly-used antibiotics. Results of the report and additional information on the types of tests and antibiotics screened for are provided here: http://www.kandc-sbcc.com/nmdrd/fy-13.pdf
How do dairy farmers use antibiotics responsibly?
Cows continue to be the most important part of a dairy farm. Dairy farmers are committed to providing for their cows and keeping them safe. Part of this care requires treating infections. Just like humans, when a cow becomes sick, she needs medicine. When antibiotics are administered to a cow, she is kept in a “sick pen” and milked separately from the rest of the herd until she is cleared of antibiotics. Farmers sample her milk on the farm before sending it to be processed and pasteurized. Milk is also sampled on the farm by the tanker truck driver before transporting the milk to the processing plant, and is tested multiple times once it has been received by the processing plant. This practice ensures that pasteurized milk and milk products are safe and free of commonly-used antibiotics before they reach the grocery store shelves for our consumption.