Proponents of organic agriculture and of raw milk have frequently charged that the nation s conventionally produced milk supply is widely contaminated with illegal drug residues. But a new report from the FDA shows that this simply isn t true.
This report is based on the FDA s Animal and Veterinary Services testing of milk from nearly 2000 dairy farms to see if the milk contained illegal drug residues. Dairy farms sampled were divided into two groups one group was targeted because they had had previous violations, the other served as a control group.
Happily, even milk from the targeted group of farms had only very low levels of residues. And overall, over 99 percent of the milk samples were free of drug residues of concern: only 0.7 percent of over 1,900 samples were contaminated.
The study was blinded, so that it wasn t possible to determine which specific farms were responsible for the residues. But it is possible to do so under the conditions of routine testing.
Milk is routinely sampled when the raw milk is picked up at a farm; samples are also taken when a bulk tank of milk (including milk from several farms) reaches a processing plant and is checked for at least four different antibiotics. If a sample from the bulk tank is found to contain a drug residue, then the samples for the individual farms are tested to determine which one led to the bulk tank contamination. Any milk found to be thus contaminated may not be sold to consumers.
The FDA pointed out: [B]ecause milk from many different dairy farms is pooled together during processing, the levels of drug residues that might be present in the milk from an individual dairy producer are unlikely to result in residue levels in the pooled milk that would pose a health threat to the consumer.
ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava commented These data should assuage any lingering doubts about the safety of the American milk supply. It really is not necessary to drink organically sourced milk to avoid illegal antibiotic residues. Further, one is much more likely to develop an illness from bacterial contamination of raw milk than to develop any ill effects from antibiotic residues in conventionally produced milk.