Utunzi Animal Welfare Organization

Antibiotic residues in milk and milk products.

Stephen Odhiambo Ouma, Utunzi animal welfare organization.

One of the five animal freedoms is “freedom from pain injury and disease.”This particular freedom is achieved by timely treatment of diseases and management of injuries. This process involves the use of veterinary medicines of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory classes.

As a quick fix, research have indicated that farmers venturing in dairy farming tend to administer antibiotics to their animals regardles of the disease or condition. In the process, they end up missusing these antibiotics by sometimes underdosing as well as not observing the withdrawall periods of these drugs.

Milk is considered a complete diet and most consumed nutritious product in the market. Milk along with other dairy products remain essential for human diet since they provide minerals(calcium), proteins(whey and caseine), vitamins and carbohydrates(lactose). Milk is mostly composed of water(87%), protein (3%), Lactose(4%-5%), fats(3%-4%), minerals(0.8%) and vitamins(0.1%) along with lipids which are usually found in the form of fat globules and are considered carriers of fat soluble vitamins, as well as flavor enhancers (Pereira PC.,2013).

Milk products can be classified as “Modern dairy products” and “Traditional dairy products”. Some of the modern products include milk (total, skimmed, and semi-skimmed), butter, cream (fresh, double, and ice), and cheese (hard, semi-hard, soft, and fresh). Some traditional products, mainly carry Arabic names derived from different Arabic countries, including laban, labneh, ayran, kishk, and some different types of cheese such as akawieh, mish cheese, dominate cheese, and haloumi (Kinany K. et al.,2020).

Animals are susceptible to a number of diseases ranging from bacterial, viral, parasitic, fungal, metabolic disorders as well as rickettsial diseases. The important one in milk is mastitis caused by a number of bacterial organisms. Mastitis is one of many other reasons why antimicrobial use has gained attention in dairy farms (Gustafson RH. et al., 1997). Hence, antimicrobials are introduced to cows when the animal is sick to assure the wellbeing of both the cattle and humans down the food chain.
Antibiotic treatment in animals is generally used either to help and protect the animals’ welfare, or in some cases, used for the farmers’ benefit to increase the animals’ weight beyond the normal. In the case of the animal’s wellbeing, antibiotics are used in one of two fashions; either prophylactically, through the injection of medications or vaccines to prevent any possible illness, especially severe ones, or therapeutically to aid in infighting a certain illness or organism that is considered a health threat[Omairi R. et al., 2022].

The presence of antibiotic residues in household and commercially available milk has been reported in East Africa. β-lactams and oxytetracyclines, which are commonly used to treat mastitis and livestock respiratory diseases in this region, can trigger hyper-allergenic reactions in people if their residue concentration in consumed milk is sufficient, maximum residue limits for amoxicillin and oxytetracycline are 4 ppb and 100 ppb, respectively(FAO, WHO, 2020). Furthermore, for milk that is contaminated with pathogenic bacteria, antibiotic residues can favor the growth of antibiotic-resistant strains that may be directly ingested by the consumer. This is in addition to the risk posed when contaminated milk is exposed to temperatures that are optimal for bacterial growth (37–42˚C) .

Unlike other countries, farmers in Kenya mostly do not need a prescription and are most likely not supervised by a veterinarian upon antibiotic administration, making it more likely to either use drugs in overdosage or for the inappropriate target. This lack of knowledge regarding antibiotics’ use and their mechanisms could cause negative consequences for both, animals and humans.
Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacterial organisms develop the ability to defeat drugs designed to kill them. The misuse and overuse of antibiotics are some of the drivers in development of drug-resistant pathogens.According to World Health Organization(WHO), antimicrobial resistance is one of the top global public health and development threats. It is estimated that bacterial antimicrobial resistance was responsible for 1.27 million global deaths in 2019.]. Bacteria have remarkable genetic flexibility that allows them to respond to any environmental threats. Constant exposure of the drug to certain microorganisms could lead to reduced effectiveness due to changes developed by the organism itself. A bacterium can acquire resistance by either modifying its DNA during cell replication referred to as mutation, or by inserting the organism’s gene into its own, becoming part of the bacteria’s genetic material thus becoming resistant to the drug.(Omairi R. et al., 2022)
Drug residues especially antibiotics is a great concern and a major risk in the future of healthcare. In the past people died from diseases that could be treated with as simple an antibiotic like penicillin, this was because it had not been invented yet. The future generation is also bound to probably suffer the same if resistance to presently available antibiotics continues. This is because no antibiotic will likely work.The use of antibiotics should be controlled and handled under the control of professionals. Antibiotics are absorbed by animal tissues and later distributed into different fluids and tissues. A high concentration is later excreted after a few hours, but a significant amount would still be found concentrated in different parts, including milk and meat. There are no techniques effective on all drugs and that significantly decrease antibiotic residue level. Antibiotic usage in animals cannot be completely banned since their absence could be harmful to both the animal and human health. More research should be conducted to identify new programs that could possibly reduce and control their usage or their concentration in milk and milk products.

i.El Kinany K, Mint Sidi Deoula M, Hatime Z, Boudouaya HA, Huybrechts I, El Asri A, Benider A, Ahallat M, Afqir S,Mellas N, Khouchani M, El Rhazi K. Consumption of modern and traditional Moroccan dairy products and colorectal cancer risk: a large case control study. Eur J Nutr 2020; 59: 953-963 [PMID: 30929068 DOI:10.1007/s00394-019-01954-1]
ii.FAO, WHO. Maximum Residue Limits | CODEXALIMENTARIUS FAO-WHO. [cited 26 Mar 2020]. Available: http://www.fao.org/fao-who-codexalimentarius/codex-texts/maximum-residue-limits/en/
iii.Gustafson RH, Bowen RE. Antibiotic use in animal agriculture. J Appl Microbiol 1997; 83: 531-541 [PMID: 9418018 DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-2672.1997.00280.x]
iv.Pereira PC. Milk nutritional composition and its role in human health. Nutrition 2014; 30: 619-627 [PMID: 24800664 DOI: 10.1016/j.nut.2013.10.011]
v.Rima Omairi,Maha Krayem, Mohamed Salla, Sanaa Khaled,Sami El Khatib. Antibiotic residues in milk and milk products, 2022,Vol 11,Issue 4.

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