Friday, January 28, 2011

Testing Milk

I am glad that I don’t drink milk from the typical dairy conglomerate.

I read today about frequent inspections and discovery of abnormal and illegal levels of antibiotics in older dairy cattle, on their way to the slaughterhouse. Those levels of contamination could also be in the milk on our store shelves.

What is that you say, why doesn’t somebody do something about it? Well, the F.D.A. had intended to start testing the milk from those farms found to be repeatedly marketing “tainted” cows. That is, until the dairy industry cried foul and pressured state regulators. Something about having to dump millions of gallons of milk that they could not store or sell while waiting for the testing to be completed. Hold it until it passes or recall it when it fails, either way it would be costly to the industry.

Dairy industry spokesmen will be the first to tell you that our milk supply is safe, that every truckload of milk is tested for four to six common antibiotics used on dairy farms. What they are NOT tested for are the other drugs not usually found on farms, yet found in the livestock prior to slaughter. The farms which repeatedly fail these tests are the one to be singled out for more rigorous review.

It is true that the number of “tainted” cows is a small fraction of the dairy cows making their way to slaughter, but it is a warning sign-an indication of possible future problems. By knowing my farmer personally and how he treats my animal and those of my fellow herd owners, I know that I will never receive milk from a “tainted” cow. Nor will my milk be mixed with that of a dairy with more lax standards. I like the consistency of the small, local dairy.

The F.D.A. had intended to start with the new year and test the milk from about 900 dairy farms. That’s right 900 repeat offenders. They would test for about two dozen antibiotics(not the typical six) and also for flunixin, a pain-killer and anti-inflammatory of popular usage on dairies. These are items that I don’t want(or need) to show up in my milk or my body. I don’t want to go to a doctor and have some unintended residue conflict with whatever he prescribes.

The major sticking point is that these expanded tests could take a week or more to complete. Large dairies depend on timely delivery to the processing plant and the store shelves, so any delay is seen as a bad thing and keeping the cows producing is a necessity.

Public health officials have warned us about the possibility of a proliferation of drug residue in the water systems, especially in large cities, and in the ground water from improper disposal of drugs. Do we now need to worry about our supposedly safe food supply?

Boy, am I glad that I don’t drink “store bought” milk.


No comments: