8 facts you should know about milk and antibiotics

November 17th, 2016

Are you confident that Canadian milk on your store shelves is free of antibiotics? You should be! Here are eight reasons why:

  1. It is the law! In Canada, all milk is tested for antibiotic residues before a processing plant will accept it. How sensitive are the tests? They can measure in parts per billion, which means they could find a drop in a swimming pool or find a single second in 32 years! Sophisticated tests are done at dairy processing plants in Canada under the supervision of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) or provincial regulators
  2. It is sampled, traceable and tested! The milk truck driver is a qualified milk grader who takes a sterile sample from each farm’s bulk tank. The sample serves several purposes, namely to trace back to the farm if milk from a certain truck (carrying milk from multiple farms) is found to contain antibiotics when it is tested at the plant. There are 2.2 million milk pickups at farms in Canada every year. Less than 0.009% turn up positive for antibiotics. On the rare occasion that the milk tests positive for antibiotics, the whole truck load of milk is discarded and never reaches consumers. Farmers responsible for sending tainted milk will not only lose the money for their milk, but will also have to pay for the whole truck load and face a financial penalty. In the very rare case that this occurs multiple times, farmers are required to leave the industry.
  3. Safe withdrawal times. Like other living beings, cows can get sick. When this happens, it is the dairy farmers’ and veterinarian’s duty to give them treatment when warranted, following strict guidelines on the use of antibiotics. The cow receiving antibiotic treatment has a physiological need to continue to be milked. However, her milk is diverted in a separate can and discarded, for the duration of a ‘withdrawal period’ - the time it takes for the cow to metabolize the antibiotic. It is not mixed in with the milk of healthy cows, which goes in a refrigerated bulk tank. This withdrawal period is approved by Health Canada, which often has stricter, longer withdrawal periods than many countries.
  4. Veterinarian oversight. Canadian dairy farmers work in close collaboration with veterinarians to manage the health of dairy animals and prevent sickness. In fact, it is a prerequisite for all Canadian dairy farms to prove they work with a veterinarian before they can sell milk.
  5. Healthy dairy cows do not require antibiotics during lactation. Individual cows’ milk is extensively tested in Canada to assess the cow’s health and the quality of her milk. Valacta and DHI conduct on average of six tests per cow per year (Over six million tests on Canadian farms annually).
  6. Prevention works. Farmers prove they take the necessary steps to prevent accidental contamination of milk on the farm, with the Food Safety module of proAction®. This program is based on Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) standards, and include proper treatment protocols, identification of treated animals and accurate record keeping, all of which help to prevent milk from treated cows entering the bulk tank. If in doubt, farmers can use quick tests to verify their milk is not tainted
  7. The CFIA routinely monitors antibiotics and other chemical residues in all foods, and reports that milk complies with regulatory standards for veterinary product residues.
  8. Did you know that if there was an antibiotic residue in the milk, processors would be unable to make cheese with it? It would inhibit the milk from coagulating – an important part in the cheese making process. The same goes for yogurt!

In Canada there is a single high quality standard for all milk! If the milk does not meet the quality and food safety requirements, it is not sold! Because milk is one of the most tested and safe foods, you can be confident and say there is no antibiotic in the milk - and dairy products – in your fridge!

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