WASHINGTON – The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requested public comment on a few issues of animal welfare. At the top of the agency’s list was assigning withdrawal period for animal drugs intended for use in food-producing animals, which adequately considers current industry standards. 

The FDA is requesting public input on:

  • Industry practices regarding how long it takes to transport certain food producing animals from production facilities to slaughter facilities.
  • How frequently dairy animals are milked.
  • How end users, such as animal producers or veterinarians, interpret animal drug labeling that states the drug has a “zero-day withdrawal period” or “zero-day milk discard time,” terms that indicate that an animal’s meat or milk is allowed to enter the food chain regardless of how much time has passed since the animal was last given the drug.

“New animal drugs are assigned withdrawal periods and milk discard times when they are approved for use in food-producing animals,” the FDA said in a release. “The withdrawal period or milk discard time is the interval between the last time the animal received a drug and the time when the animal can be slaughtered for human food or the milk can be consumed by people, respectively. If established withdrawal periods and milk discard times are appropriately followed, any drug residues present are expected to be safe for people to eat.” 

The agency assigns a zero-day withdrawal period or zero-day milk discard time to new animal drugs when data or information establish that edible tissues or milk can be consumed a point called “practical zero.”

FDA defined practical zero in the 1980s as six hours for poultry and 12 hours for cattle and pigs, and practical zero milk discard as 12 hours for lactating dairy cows. The agency said it is safe for people to consume these products past the beforementioned times.  

Animal agriculture has seen substantial changes since the 1980s but the agency said it has no indication of any new safety concerns. The FDA said the number of drug residue violations detected by US Dept. of Agriculture at slaughter and reported to FDA has been trending downward since 2013.

With this time of public comment, the FDA wants information on current industry practices along with the end of user’s interpretation of labeling statements. 

“This information will help the FDA update its procedures, as necessary, to ensure that current industry practices are being appropriately considered,” the agency stated. 

FDA wants public comment on topics for all food-producing animals except laying hens, food-producing aquatic animals and honey bees because the concept of practical zero withdrawal does not apply to those animals.

The Administration accepting public comments for 60 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register. To electronically submit comments to the docket, visit www.regulations.gov and type FDA-2019-N-3019 in the search box.