Lactating cows, which are not raised for their meat, but obviously for their milk, aren't given antibiotics unless they are actually sick, because drug residues will immediately appear in the milk — a violation of food safety standards.
But according to a new report from the FDA, some farmers are slipping through holes in its enforcement net by using drugs that aren't supposed to be used on dairy cows at all, therefore routine tests don't even check for them. Their motivation? To keep the animals healthy so that they can grow bigger, faster.
Because of this bit of trickery, your milk could contain up to six unauthorized antibiotics.
The agency spot-checked thousands of dairy farms and claims that it found these drugs in a small — but still alarming — number of samples.
The drugs include Ciprofloxacin and Sulfamethazine — both "totally illegal" to give to dairy cows, according to Mike Apley, a researcher at Kansas State University's College of Veterinary Medicine — and others that are never supposed to enter the food supply.
To make matters worse, the FDA can't send investigators to figure out what went wrong on specific farms because the samples were collected anonymously for research purposes.
So even though only a small number of farmers are recklessly using drugs on their cows, they're tainting the reputation of the entire industry.