The prevalence of chemical residues in milk is extremely low, with testing for antibiotics being routinely undertaken by dairy companies at the farm vat, tanker and silo, but it’s this time of year where we can see a spike.

“It’s important farmers double check arrangements for identifying treated cows. Unfortunately, antibiotic detections in tankers are up for this time of year,” said Geoff Raven, Dairysafe CEO.

“Although it shows that the system is working, antibiotic detections also risk the industry’s tremendous reputation in antibiotic stewardship and represents an unnecessary cost for farmers and processors.”

Geoff said the cost can easily be averted through good systems, communication and training at the dairy.

Antibiotics have been used to treat serious bacterial diseases in Australian livestock for more than 60 years. They offer important benefits to industry and food production, but also present risks to human health, food production and domestic and export markets that must be managed.

To assist in managing the risk, a survey of raw milk from 1,000 tankers from all regions of Australia is taken each year for analysis for a wider range of antimicrobials, animal parasite control chemicals, feed contaminants and environmental contaminants. The results of both the dairy company and tanker survey testing results are reported annually in the Australian Milk Residue Analysis (AMRA) survey report.

“The results tell an overwhelmingly positive story with close to 100% compliance over the history of the AMRA survey across all chemical classes,” Geoff said.

“In the rare event that antibiotics are confirmed in raw milk at the factory, the milk is removed from the supply chain under regulatory supervision. Company testing data shows that antibiotics are rarely if ever identified in consumer products.

“These results are evidence that the Australian dairy industry’s approach to agricultural and veterinary chemical usage is responsible, effective and in accordance with good agricultural practice. It also demonstrates that the food safety management systems adopted by the dairy industry are successful in managing potential residue contaminations.”

Systems to manage the risk of antibiotics entering food products are comprehensive and include regulatory and commercial controls along the supply chain.

A national Antibiotic Management and Monitoring Policy for the dairy industry, finalised earlier this year, outlines the arrangements for managing the risk of antibiotics entering the milk supply chain.

The new national policy covers antibiotic management, monitoring, testing, action to take for positive detections and responsibilities. The policy provides a protocol (flowchart) for screening milk tankers for residues, and there is an antibiotic notification and follow-up protocol.

The policy is available on the Dairysafe website here.