January 4, 2021

CSPI Wants to See Study of Illegal Drug Residues in Milk

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) filed a Freedom of Information Act request for survey data from the FDA on illegal drug residues in the U.S. milk supply. Food safety advocates have been waiting for two years for the government to release this data.

Milking Cow Wet FloorThe FDA survey was conducted in 2012, giving the agency more than 2 years to analyze the data and prepare and release a report. CSPI senior food safety attorney David Plunkett said, “consumers have a right to know what’s in their milk, and if there are dangerous drugs in it, they need to know what the FDA is doing about that. Why are those dairies that either can’t or won’t follow the rules allowed to continue to market milk?”

A quick browse through FDA warning letters sent to dairies around the country finds that excessive and illegal drug residues are often found in dairy farm animals sent to slaughter. In fact, these problems are more frequently found in animals coming from dairy farms than in animals coming from other sources. CSPI reviewed a year’s worth of drug testing reports in 2011 and found that animals from dairy farms accounted for 67% of reported drug residue violations at slaughter. And in some cases, the residues found were for drugs not approved for use in cattle.

The government does prohibit dairy farms from selling cattle with illegal drug residue for meat, but that prohibition doesn’t extend to the facilities’ milking operations. Plunkett added, “the agency doesn’t get to hide information from the public by simply failing to write up a report on what it thinks the data show.”

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