NCIMS Tetracycline Testing Pilot Program Launches July 1

As part of ongoing efforts to demonstrate to consumers the safety of the U.S. milk supply, starting this month dairy regulators will begin testing bulk milk tank trucks for the tetracycline family of drugs as part of the NCIMS Pilot Program. These new tests will be conducted alongside the existing beta-lactam drug screening program that is required by the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO).

NMPF has been engaged in both developing the tetracycline screening protocol and educating the producer community about it since the new program was first outlined at the 2015 National Conference of Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS).

As is the case with testing for beta-lactam antibiotics, if any milk tanker is found with a tetracycline drug residue, it will be rejected and its milk dumped. The tolerance level for tetracyclines – set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration – is 300 parts per billion.

“Over the last 20 years, the percentage of farm milk samples testing positive for the presence of beta lactam antibiotics – the type of antibiotics most commonly used to treat sick cows – has continued to decline from an exceedingly low level of positives to virtually non-existent,” said Beth Briczinski, NMPF vice president of dairy foods and nutrition. “In 1996, 99.9% of samples tested free of antibiotics. In 2016, nearly 99.99% of farm milk samples tested antibiotic-free. That’s a great achievement, and this new testing program is another opportunity to demonstrate our industry’s commitment to milk safety and judicious use of antibiotics to treat animals when they become sick.”

NMPF assisted with the development of the pilot program through the NCIMS Appendix N Modification Committee. To help educate farmers and cooperatives about the requirements of the program, National Milk has hosted three webinars for cooperative members during the past year. NMPF staff have also contributed articles in both Hoard’s Dairyman and Progressive Dairyman that describe the pilot program’s general requirements (i.e. which facilities are expected to participate, rate of testing, test kits that will be used), and emphasized the need for producers to work with veterinarians through a valid Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship. Published materials also include a FAQ sheet and the FARM Program’s drug residue prevention manual.

The testing program will be conducted for 18 months, after which the FDA and NCIMS will examine the results and determine next steps. More information can be found on the NCIMS Pilot Program website and NMPF website.

“The ultimate goal of the tetracycline pilot program is to demonstrate the effort the industry is doing to ensure antibiotic residues do not end up in milk,” said Dr. Briczinski. “National Milk staff are available to help producers understand and comply with this program so that we can continue telling the dairy industry’s great story about wholesome, nutritious milk.”