by Amanda Smith, Associate Editor

The recently released Food and Drug Administration (FDA) milk residue study found that only 0.78 percent of the samples tested were positive for antibiotic residues. The in-depth investigation looked at 31 drugs that are not routinely tested for under the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO) standards for Grade A milk.

That minute 0.78 percent represented 15 of the nearly 2,000 shipments tested.

As a result of the FDA's findings, a pilot program will be developed to expand the drugs for which testing is required beyond beta-lactams. The pilot project was established last week and will be implemented at the National Conference for Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS).

The pilot project comes on the heels of a risk assessment that was undertaken by FDA and is a tool to assist with re-evaluating which animal drug residues should be included in milk testing programs, noted the Cheese Reporter.

The agency developed a multicriteria-based ranking model to help answer a key question: do residues of animal drugs other than beta-lactam antibiotics warrant monitoring? Since 1991, the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance has required that all tankers be tested for beta-lactam residues.

"The NCIMS Committee tasked with modifying drug residue testing programs will work over the next two years to determine appropriate rapid testing methods and raw milk tanker sampling frequencies for conducting these expanded drug residue tests. Implementation of requirements for testing milk tankers for additional drugs will take effect no earlier than 2017," noted Carrie Frye, with the International Dairy Foods Association.

For its assessment, the FDA evaluated 54 drugs. These drugs were then scored on four criteria and ranked. Beta-lactam antibiotics and antiparasitic drugs, especially avermectins, were the two highest-ranked drug classes. The FDA is currently seeking comments related to the model structure and data used.

"The FDA risk ranking has been a long time coming," noted Beth Briczinski, with the National Milk Producers Federation.

"The request for comments isn't to establish what drugs to test for but to figure out what data should be used, and in what type of model that data should be applied, in order to rank a set of drugs. The risk ranking will be a tool we can use to rank drugs and will, hopefully, help us prioritize future testing efforts," continued Briczinski.

Yet, part of the need for heightened residue testing is NCIMS' doing, as it elected, yet again, to maintain the legal somatic cell count limit at 750,000 cells/mL.

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May 11, 2015
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