Last year, dairy farmers delivered the safest milk supply to consumers in modern U.S. history with a mere 0.011 percent of bulk milk pickup tankers testing positive for antibiotic residues. While perfection remains our goal, collectively we have reached a new milestone in quality control.

This achievement is based on solid data compiled by the National Milk Drug Residue Database (NMDRD) with oversight from the Food and Drug Administration. In all, 3,085,627 bulk milk pickup tankers were tested with just 350 loads turning up positive. The graph illustrates the improvements dairy farmers have made in carefully administering antibiotics to cure illness, recording and tracking those treatments, and discarding questionable milk before it even leaves the farm. Note the steady improvement from 1997’s 0.093 percent to last year’s 0.011 percent.

While we should celebrate this wonderful achievement, we also must double down on our efforts to prevent any antibiotic residues, both in milk and meat, from ever leaving our farms. The NMDRD antibiotic residue tests only include drugs with known withdrawal times. Remember, there is zero tolerance for residue on drugs under extra-label use.

To improve upon our efforts, we must continue to work with our veterinarians to create a valid veterinary client-patient relationship, follow product labels and known withdrawal times, keep accurate records, and clearly mark treated cows. By everyone becoming more diligent, we can produce products of even higher quality.