Does milk contain antibiotics?

Antibiotics are used on many farms to treat cows from various diseases and mastitis infections which are quite often in cows.  Milk containing antibiotic residues cannot be used for human consumption. The standards, as defined by the FDA, requires that milk contain no detectable antibiotics when analyzed using approved test methods.

The primary controls are complemented by the testing of milk for antibiotics, undertaken by food processors and manufacturers at various points in the supply chain, including on farm.

Why milk screening is required?

The correct administration of the antibiotics and the careful adherence to withdrawal periods is required by law. In brief, milk producers must ensure that milk from cows or other animals under treatment or in the withdrawal period does not enter the food chain. While cow is being treated, its milk should be stored separately.  Once treatment is over, milk should be tested continuously until there are no antibiotic residues in it. Only then it is possible to mix this cow’s milk with others.

Regulation (EC) No 853/2004, (Annex III, Section IX, Chapter I.III.2, 4 and 5) requires that:

  1. food business operators must follow the procedures to ensure that raw milk is not placed on the market if it contains antibiotic residues in excess of regulated limits (Maximum Residue Limit – MRL);
  2. a representative number of random samples of raw milk collected from milk production holdings be tested for compliance with the requirement of (i) above.

What are the antibiotic residue limits in milk production?

The maximum residue limit (MRL) is the maximum concentration of residue accepted by the European Union (EU) in a food product obtained from an animal that has received a veterinary medicine.

Some substances are considered to represent a hazard to the safety of the consumer at any level. These substances must not be used in veterinary medicines for use in food producing animals or in biocidal products for use in animal husbandry, and are included in table 2 (prohibited substances) of the annex to Commission Regulation (EU) No 37/2010.

Allowed substances Maximum residue limits are listed within the same documents, see table 1.

Who can use antibiotic rapid screening tests?

All players in the milk production chain – farmers for on-farm milk testing, milk purchasers and processors, milk control laboratories and the enforcement authorities.

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