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Organic Trade Association Releases Questionable Study; NMPF Fights Back

July 8, 2019

NMPF fought back after the Organic Trade Association released a study done by Emory University on June 26 that supposedly found that 60 percent of 35 conventional milk samples that were tested had antibiotic residues – a study that came with head-scratching conclusions when compared to the wealth of research already available on the issue.

The antibiotics detected by the study, which was funded by The Organic Center, included sulfamethazine and sulfathiazole, which aren’t allowed for use in lactating dairy cattle. One sample also tested positive for amoxicillin levels higher than what is approved by the FDA. The conventional samples also tested positive for pesticides and growth hormones, while organic milk samples tested were found to have no pesticides, antibiotics or growth hormones.

Many questions were raised about the study immediately after its release, after lab experts began to analyze the methodology of the study including its size, the standards used for the testing, and the four-year lag period between sample collection and the published analysis. The research also conflicted with rich data found by the National Milk Drug Residue Monitoring Program conducted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). That report in 2018 found that out of the 60,000 milk samples tested for sulfonamide drugs, none of the samples tested positive. Over the past decade, sulfonamide antibiotics were present in only 99 samples of the 884,455 tested.

NMPF released a joint statement with the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Dairy Council restating the safety of milk and calling out the flaws in the study. The article, written for USA Today, was quickly amended to include a section on “reasons for skepticism” highlighting the potential flaws of this study. NMPF has requested a meeting with FDA to discuss next steps.