Antibiotics in Milk

Milk and milk products are innate part of Indian food from ancient times, from infant to childhood from adolescent period to old age milk has been recommended for all ages.

The antibiotics were scientifically discovered for the welfare of mankind and animals, for their treatment and prevention of all types of diseases. The use of antibiotics in veterinary is to promote growth and increases food efficiency and to reduce diseases in cattle.

Unfortunately in most of the places specially in India this virtue discovered by well-wishers of life has turned into nightmare due to human greed. Deceitful use of antibiotics in livelihood plays major role in public health and antibiotic resistance crisis, mainly in India. According to a study global use of antimicrobials for food animal production is likely to increase by 67% in 2030 causing this issue to much more alarming state.

The antibiotics in milk will reach the human body and make us antibiotic resistant resulting in use of higher and more expensive antibiotic for treatment of infections and finally inefficacy of all which may bring about fatal conditions even in very basic wounds or infections. This is the biggest and a most silent threat of use of antibiotics on cattle.

Unlike European and other developed countries, where when cattle are treated with antibiotic medicines it is milked separately from herd and all the milk from the concerned animal is thrown away. This milk is not sold in market neither it is used by any means. Once the cow is treated and becomes healthier again the farmer sends its milk for testing several times, to check the presence of medicines in the milk before selling the milk in market.

The global standards for antibiotic residue content in milk is 0.2 milligram, all milk in India is higher than that. Although the superior exotic animals like Holstein Friesian and Jersey yield is much more than given by indigenous animals but these exotic breeds are much more vulnerable to illness and need to be administered with heavy doses of antibiotics. Most of the cows in small private dairies in India are kept in cramped places with no ventilation, clean water facilities. These poor animals are pumped with antibiotics and hormonal injection to produce more milk but exposing consumers to several diseases.

Increased illegal us of hormones like oxytocin are most common to increase milk produce, Oxytetracycline which is from tetracycline group of antibiotics can be easily found in dairies. These antibiotics are prescribed to treat diseases like mastitis, infection in udders. The consumption of such milk containing residues of these antibiotics can led human to antibiotic resistance, allergic reactions, toxicity etc.

Poor veterinary care is given to cows, no treatments by proper veterinary doctor are given most of the times and they are treated with self-medication of farmers to avoid the fees of Doctors. The increased use of hormones like oxytocin is traced in many parts of the country. In greed for increased milk production dairy farmers give injections of hormones like oxytocin despite the ban on it to be used on dairy animals by Indian government.

Recent hospitals and some community data showed increase in antibiotic resistance. The misuse of antibiotic in many cases have found to increase weights of dairy and food animals for only their sale purposes. Many cases have been found where cows have been fed excessively with corn feed, which is undigestable completely by ruminant stomach of cow and its treatment by antibiotics led to weight gain in cows. Antibiotics are freely and cheaply available in India this is also the reason for increased use of antibiotics in food animals.

Government wants to stop the misuse of antibiotics by putting complete ban on these illegal practices. But this action of government is greatly feared by poultry industry as the prices may shoot up  and production may suffer. Many foreign diseases like E. Colli and Salmonelia checked by antibiotics may come back. India will see the highest growth in antibiotic usage in food animals between now and 2030. India has its current position as fourth in ten nations with highest use of antibiotics in dairy farm.


Few immediate actions can be taken to control and check the use of antibiotics in food animals.

High-income countries with highly productive livestock sectors—such as Denmark, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands—use antibiotics in limits. The limit is less than 50 milligrams of antibiotics per population corrective unit (mg/PCU), a measurement unit developed by the European Medicines Agency to monitor antibiotic use and sales across Europe.

The new study suggests capping the use of antibiotics in farm animals at 50 mg/PCU globally. If India were to adopt this limit, antibiotic use in food animals in the country would decline by 15%, or 736 tons through to 2030.

·        To put cap on amount of antibiotic to be given to food animal.

·        Increase in price of veterinary antibiotics to stop their excessive and misuse.

A  50% user fee on the price of veterinary antibiotics–would reduce antibiotic use in food animals in India by 46%, or 2,185 tons by 2030.

·        Use of Ayurveda and naturopathy to increase immunity of animals and their treatment.

·        To keep dairy animals in clean, proper ventilated and hygienic place.

·        Availability of clean water for their drinking.

·        Proper check up by certified veterinary Doctor whenever required.

·        Use of nutritious feed and forage.

·        To use natural flooring instead of hard flooring to stop animals from lameness and joint problems.

Due to  exploitative practices, animals are going “dry”. This is the main reason why India is the world’s 2nd largest beef exporter in the absence of raising beef cattle.

These are the few methods to keep our food animals healthy with almost no or lesser use of antibiotics, so that our cattle like dairies of developed countries may produce healthy milk for mankind without residues of antibiotics and hormones in it.

One reason why many European nations adopted ethical and organic practices in its animal products industry is the high level of consumer awareness in its markets. In India, consumers of animal products have yet to become demanding.