A national Antibiotic Management and Monitoring Policy for the dairy industry was recently finalised and outlines the arrangements for managing the risk of antibiotics entering the milk supply chain.

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.

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.

“The good news is that 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, silo and product levels of the supply chain,” said Geoff Raven, Dairysafe CEO.

In addition, 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.

Food safety programs, mandated for the production and processing of dairy products by Standard 4.2.4 of the Food Standards Code, are one tool which requires a dairy producer, transporter or processor to identify and control potential food safety hazards.

Dairy processors regularly define regulatory as well as company specifications within food safety programs. Dairy farms often adopt or are mandated to use the company food safety programs that a have been approved by state-based regulators.

Potential risks are monitored on an ongoing basis with routine consultation between industry and government to discuss possible challenges. The risk management process is science-based, and industry applies a preventive outcomes-based approach to managing the hazard.