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Home > Licensing, Inspections, Certifications & Testing > Food, Dairy, Meat & Egg Inspection > MDAs role in preventing antibiotic resistance

MDA's role in preventing antibiotic resistance


The issue of antibiotic resistance is important to everyone in Minnesota. Use of antibiotics with the subsequent development of resistant bacteria has public health, animal welfare, legal and social implications. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has several programs that already address the issue of drugs and drug residues in milk, meat and feed as a foundation for control mechanisms. The Department is building on this foundation to further promote judicious use of antibiotics in animal agriculture.

Dairy Activities

Raw milk screening

  • In accordance with Minnesota law, MDA inspectors take raw milk samples from tanker trucks on a quarterly basis from 10 percent of the daily loads of milk that enter dairy plants and transfer and receiving stations. These samples are taken to the MDA's laboratory where they are tested for beta-lactams, a category of antibiotic drugs that is labeled for use in lactating cows and includes Penicillins. However, beta-lactam residues are not allowed in milk. When found in milk, this often indicates too high a dosage of antibiotics were used or milk was not withheld and discarded for the time stated on the label. Minnesota law also requires that every tanker load of raw milk must be screened by certified dairy plant personnel for the presence of beta-lactams.
  • When even trace amounts of beta-lactams are found through screening tests done at MDA-certified laboratories or by the MDA, whole tankers, or sometimes even storage silos are dumped and the milk is not used for any fluid milk or manufacturing purpose. In 2001, 6.7 million pounds of milk were dumped due to the presence of antibiotics. This milk therefore, did not enter the food chain where it could potentially promote the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria in consumers of those dairy products.
  • This screening process is enhanced by a reporting mechanism the MDA has in place with its stakeholders that makes sure any milk loads found to contain residues are reported to the MDA within 24 hours so a proper investigation and corrective action can be done as soon as possible. MDA dairy inspectors and fieldmen from dairy plants work with the dairy producer to promote the appropriate use of antibiotics and decrease the amount of milk that has to be dumped, a loss of income for the producer. Increased educational efforts in the past several years have decreased the volume of milk which had to be discarded.
  • In addition, a number of other MDA-enforced consequences of antibiotic residues are in place to discourage the improper use of antibiotics. Some of these consequences include loss of payment for milk containing residues, paying for the entire load or silos of milk with which the adulterated milk commingled and loss of sale until future milk loads test negative for residues.

Dairy farm inspections

  • Each year, MDA dairy inspectors inspect Grade A dairy farms twice and manufacturing grade dairy farms once to be sure the operation is producing milk in accordance with food safety laws. As part of these inspections, MDA inspectors make sure dairy farmers are using and handling drugs according to their labels. These drug inspection activities hold producers accountable to judicious drug use on their animals by:
    • identifying extra-label drug use;
    • making sure drugs are stored appropriately; and
    • verifying that labels are accurate.

    Education initiative

    • In addition to milk screening and inspections, the MDA kicked off a campaign in 2000 to educate dairy farmers on how to keep antibiotic residues out of their milk. This was a two-pronged effort that involved working with the University of Minnesota to identify the top 10 reasons why antibiotics end up in milk and printing this list on a laminated barn card that was distributed to every dairy farm in Minnesota. To accommodate farm workers who speak Spanish, but little English, the MDA also printed Spanish versions of the barn cards.
    • The second part of this effort involved working with veterinarians across the state on the implications of the Animal Medicinal Drug Use Clarification Act (AMDUCA) of 1994, which allows veterinarians to prescribe extra-label uses of certain approved animal drugs and approved human drugs for animals under certain conditions. This effort included topics such as prescription labeling and the patient-vet relationship.

    Animal Feed Activities

    Commercial Feed Inspections

    • The MDA's Commercial Feed Program conducts about 180 inspections of medicated feed manufacturing establishments each year. The basis for these inspections is an FDA Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMP) or (GMP) regulation that is adopted by reference in Minnesota regulations. The purpose of the regulation is to determine if a feed manufacturing establishment is "in control" of its process to adequately mix a feed containing a drug or antibiotic and to determine that only drugs or antibiotics approved for use in animal feed are used in accordance with their FDA approvals.
    • Through inspections, MDA inspectors hold feed manufacturing firms accountable to the CGMP regulations by making sure they:
      • are in control of an antibiotic from the time it arrives at the mill, through the mixing process and when it leaves the plant;
      • know the amount of the antibiotic on hand;
      • keep track of the feed an antibiotic is used in and the amount used in each batch;
      • know where the feed containing the antibiotic goes (e.g., farmer, downstream distribution);
      • maintain a drug (antibiotic) inventory;
      • have the ability to accurately weigh the drug;
      • use the approved amount of drug or antibiotic for the appropriate species and malady
      • have the ability to recall any batch or lot of production; and
      • adequately and accurately label all medicated product with directions for use and a drug indication for use statement.
      • The point of accurate labeling is to adequately advise a user of the specifications of the product, such as what the antibiotic is, what it controls or prevents, how much of the antibiotic is in the feed, and how to feed the mixed feed so the animals will obtain the correct amount of the antibiotic.
      • When antibiotic violations are discovered in animal feeds, the MDA and FDA work together with the responsible firm to be sure corrective actions are taken, which may include feed product embargoes, withdrawals or disposals.

      Meat Inspection Activities

      Tissue residue sampling and investigation

      • The Minnesota State Meat Inspection Program enforces laws related to the illegal use of antibiotics in animals intended for slaughter. The MDA's meat inspectors inspect Minnesota's 20 slaughtering plants under state inspection on a daily basis. If injection scars are noticed on carcasses, a tissue sample is taken and sent to a U.S. Department of Agriculture laboratory where it is tested for the presence of antibiotics that require a withholding period (USDA-inspected plants follow this same procedure).

        If the tests show up positive, the carcass is condemned and the information is passed along to the U.S. Food and Drug Association because the FDA regulates the use of veterinary medicines. The FDA then investigates to determine the cause of the residue. Once the cause is known, the FDA passes the information over to the MDA, which investigates subsequent violators in Minnesota. As part of this investigation, MDA inspectors educate the responsible party about judicious use of antibiotics, including proper administration and withholding periods.

      Tissue residue surveys

      • The MDA is currently in the process of obtaining the proper testing equipment to begin general, random tissue surveys of its 20 state inspected slaughtering plants to identify the presence of antibiotic residues. Any carcasses found to have residues will be condemned and the matter will be investigated.

      • Two slaughter plants will also receive an incubator that provides an on-the-spot analysis of whether or not antibiotics are present on carcass tissues through a positive/negative test, known as a STOP or FAST test. If antibiotics are found, the samples will be sent to a USDA or MDA lab for further analysis to identify the type of antibiotic. If the antibiotic requires a withholding period, the carcass containing the residue will be condemned and the matter will be investigated.

      • The MDA periodically partners with the Minnesota Department of Health or the FDA to conduct surveys of poultry or meat products to monitor for the presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Since 1997, the MDA and MDH have had an ongoing study of antibiotic resistance in Campylobacter jejuni in chicken. The study was recently expanded to include surveys of turkey, pork and beef as well. In 1999, an article was published in the May 20 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine regarding this research.

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