In an effort to be proactive in food safety at the farm level, Wisconsin veterinarians have collectively developed a precedent-setting program.
Food Armor™ is a one-of-a- kind, on-farm action plan that outlines how veterinarians and farmers can work together to redefine drug use in the dairy industry. The voluntary, educational outreach program takes a proactive approach to prevent drug residues in milk and meat. While testing and food plant protocol prevent residue-tainted milk or meat from entering the food chain, Food Armor™ aims to further reduce the risk of residues reaching the food processor.
“Our program started in Wisconsin and has had a lot of success,” says Dr. Katie Mrdutt, outreach specialist for Food Armor™. “We now have taken this program nationwide and trained veterinarians coast to coast.”
Since its inception in 2011, the program has shown decreased residue cases at the plant level, Mrdutt says.
The Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association and Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin partnered to debut the formal program, fully titled the Food Armor™ Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) for Proper Drug Use Farm Certification Program.
The trademarked logo launched in 2014. In 2015, the program trained 200 veterinarians nationwide. In 2016, those veterinarians are working to certify farms through the Food Armor™ six-section plan. Certification involves keeping stringent records, developing treatment plans, maintaining an inventory of on-farm medicines, identifying potential residue hazards and recording a permanent medical history for each animal.
“The beauty of this program is it is customized per individual farm,” says Kim Brown Pokorny, executive director of the Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association. “Whether it’s management style, employee skill sets or a different business model and goals, each and every HACCP program on each and every farm is customized.”
Embracing Food Armor™ requires a relationship with various livestock-related organizations, as the program has sponsorships from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, Wisconsin Beef Council, Professional Dairy Producers Foundation and Equity Livestock Cooperative. A random third-party audit ensures the integrity of the program.
“Not only am I a veterinarian, I’m a mom and a producer myself,” Mrdutt says. “I have the same concerns that any other mom might have about putting healthy and safe food on the table. I have confidence in meat and dairy products, knowing that there is a program out there like this and knowing all the safety practices at the farm level all the way to the grocery store.”