2018-06-20 / Opinion

Antibiotics in Milk: Fact or Fiction

By Rosie Cunningham

DELAWARE COUNTY - Dairy often gets a bad reputation and “fake news” is not helping an already floundering dairy industry.

There is a lot of misinformation about dairy and as a result, many people avoid dairy products and miss out on its health and nutritional benefits. Studies show that when consumed as part of a healthy diet, dairy products contribute to better bone health and improve overall diet quality.

Many consumers believe and openly share that there are antibiotics in the milk purchased in stores because dairy cows are believed to be given unnecessary antibiotics, transferring the antibiotics to the milk we drink.

There are no antibiotics in the milk sold in stores. Many steps are taken from the time the cow produces the milk until it hits the store shelf to ensure it is antibiotic free.

“Farmers take great care to make sure the milk supply is safe and antibiotic free,” Delaware County Farm Bureau President Duane Martin. “They separate sick cows that may have needed antibiotics from the other cows. There are also mandatory withdrawal periods before the cows can be milked to prevent antibiotics from getting into the milk tanks. Regardless, milk is tested on the farm and at the milk plant. If any milk tests positive for antibiotics, it is dumped and does not make it to consumers.”

And when Martin says milk is dumped, he means it. The cost of trace amounts of antibiotics found in tank costs a dairy farmer thousands.

Every tanker of milk, whether from a conventional or an organic farm, is tested for antibiotics every day before the trucks will take a farmer’s milk. The whole load will be discarded if it tests positive for commonly used antibiotics, and the farmer is financially responsible for the full tanker. State regulators apply additional penalties, such as a fine and/or revoking the farmer’s license to sell milk if additional tests are positive.

Strict FDA and state regulations govern all FDA-approved medications used to treat dairy cows on the farm and require dairy food companies to test milk for commonly-used antibiotics. This oversight is designed to protect public health and ensure consumers are getting safe and wholesome dairy products.

You can trust that the milk you drink is safe, wholesome and contains an irreplaceable package of nutrients that cannot be found in any other single food or beverage (Dairy Council of California).

Rosie Cunningham is married to John Lamport, owner of Lamport Farms of Hobart.

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