Got Milk? Got Drugs? Got Both?: State Responds After Idaho Dairy Cattle Test Positive In Food Safety Tests

George Prentice | Boise Weekly | April 6, 2011

High levels of antibiotics and other drugs found in cattle linked to dairies

The Food and Drug Administration is worried about what it calls an "important potential public health issue." It could be in your latte or your child's bowl of breakfast cereal. It could be in your refrigerator or freezer. At the very least, the FDA wants to make certain that it's not in any of the 8 million milk-producing cattle in the United States or the 500,000 dairy cows in Idaho.

When test results released last year by the United States Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service showed extremely high levels of drugs and antibiotics in cattle from dairies across the nation, including in Idaho, the federal agency announced it would launch a series of tests to address a potential problem. The Idaho dairy industry decided to preclude the FDA action with some unofficial testing of its own. Yet records of the testing are inaccessible and records of their strategy meeting don't exist.

On Jan. 4, dairymen from across the Gem State met to address the issue at the Boise headquarters of the Idaho State Department of Agriculture. Officials at the ISDA told BW there are no minutes, no recordings and no notes of the proceedings.

Attendees decided that Idaho dairies would send milk samples for drug and antibiotic analysis to the ISDA Animal Health Lab. But the ISDA kept no record of the analysis, and the findings were sent to the Idaho Dairymen's Association, which has exclusive ownership of the findings.