NCIMS meets to discuss regulations for tetracycline screening in milk

Last week, the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS) held its Western Region Meeting in Reno, Nevada to discuss all things dairy — especially the future of regulating the screening of antibiotics in milk.

The meeting, which relates to one of the three state cooperative programs supported by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), was held between state, local and tribal regulators, as well as industry partners. At the event, attendees covered many different topics, including foodborne illness surveillance, responses to outbreaks (which are now defined as two or more foodborne illness cases), and the regulation of Grade “A” dairy farms and milk processing plants.

First, some backstory. For over 70 years, NCIMS and the FDA have been working to ensure a safe milk supply across the U.S. One small part of their goal involves screening milk for common antibiotic residues, which are not suited for human consumption. In July 2017, the NCIMS started a pilot program to explore adding a new family of antibiotics to the list of drugs regulated for screening: tetracyclines.

At the recent meeting, much of the talk centered around tetracyclines and how the pilot program to detect them has been progressing. This program will finish up in December 2018, when regulators will evaluate whether tetracyclines will be permanently added to the screening list, meaning companies would be audited for whether they effectively screen for their presence in their dairy products. Many dairy companies already test for tetracyclines, along with other drug families, because many of their customers already require it.

Representatives from companies in the dairy industry are encouraged to join the discussions at the upcoming national conference, which only happens every two years. The next one takes place in St. Louis, Missouri in 2019. Other future regional meetings for the calendar: The Eastern Milk Seminar in the fall of 2019, and the Western Milk Seminar in the spring of 2020.

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