Do you buy milk for your family? I sure do, my son loves it! I know it’s one of the best foods for him as he is growing. Some moms are concerned that there might be antibiotics in milk. I want you to stop worrying – there are never antibiotics in milk!
Antibiotics in Milk
There are lots of labels to wade through at the grocery store. Some of the labels that can seem the scariest are on milk. After all, we give milk to our kids. Lots of milk. My almost two-year old can drink a gallon of milk in 3-4 days by himself. And the last thing we want to do is feed our families something that might be bad for them.
Some brands of milk are popping up with a label that says “no antibiotics” or “antibiotic free” or “all milk is tested for antibiotics.” That’s great – we all want antibiotic free milk. And these labels make it sound like their milk is the only milk that has no antibiotics. But did you know, regardless of what the labels say, that all milk is antibiotic free?
That’s right – no matter what breed of cow made the milk, no matter what kind of barn she lived in or if she was on pasture, no matter if she was raised on an organic or a conventional farm, no matter if she ever was given antibiotics in her life – all milk is antibiotic free.
Did you catch that? Let me say it again.
All milk is antibiotic free.
If cows get sick, sometimes they need antibiotics. Not every sick cow needs antibiotics – veterinarians help farmers decide which cows to treat with antibiotics and which cows to treat another way. Just like in people – every time you get sick you don’t need antibiotics, but when you do, antibiotics are really important!
If a cow is given antibiotics, her farmer keeps detailed records about which antibiotic she was given, how much, when, and how often. She is taken out of the milking herd, and her milk is thrown away the entire time she is on antibiotics, and for a certain period of time after the antibiotics are done. This is called the withdrawal period.
Every drug that can be used in dairy cattle has a withdrawal period. For some drugs it may be as short as a day or two, but most drugs have a withdrawal period of 7-10 days. This is the amount of time it takes for the drug to be completely metabolized and out of the cow’s system. During the withdrawal period, no milk from that cow can be used for human food. It all must be thrown away.
After the withdrawal period, the cow go back to the milking herd. The antibiotics are out of her system and are out of her milk.
Every time the milk truck comes to pick up milk from a dairy farm, the milk is tested for antibiotics. If any antibiotics are found in the milk, the entire truck load of milk is dumped. If the milk truck has stopped at multiple dairy farms to get a full load, the farmer who let antibiotic-contaminated milk get into the milk supply has to pay for the other farmer’s milk.
A sample of milk is taken for testing at each dairy farm before the milk truck picks up the milk. Every milk truck is also tested when it reaches the bottling facility. This is all for food safety – no one wants milk from sick cows in our food supply, and no one wants milk with antibiotics in our food supply! Farmers take good care of their cows, and keep very careful records, to make sure that this never happens.
So, rest assured, whether the gallon of milk in your refrigerator specifically says it or not, there are never any antibiotics in milk!