Charm Cow Side II provides antibiotic-free milk confidence to dairy farmers

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

The Charm CowSide II test could be performed at all levels including by the dairy farmer, Charm Sciences VP of regulatory affairs said. ©iStock/shakzu
The Charm CowSide II test could be performed at all levels including by the dairy farmer, Charm Sciences VP of regulatory affairs said. ©iStock/shakzu

Related tags Milk Dairy farming

Dairy screening test Charm CowSide II test has received ILVO validation, an EU process control method that is gaining more recognition in the US, according to manufacturer Charm Sciences.

ILVO is the EU reference laboratory for antibiotics and the national reference laboratory of Belgium. ILVO performs screening test validations according to the European Commission Central Reference Laboratory Screening Test Guidelines also being adopted by the International Dairy Federation.


The Charm Cow Side II test is a broad spectrum inhibition typically used for the screening of raw commingled milk and ultra-pasteurized cow’s milk. The test detects all major classes of antibiotics including: beta-lactams, sulfonamides, tetracyclines, macrolides, and aminoglycosides, the company said in a press release. 

“The test serves as a confirmation of the farmers’ process control on a daily basis and that they have control over their medicine cabinet. Meaning that no detectable antibiotics from treated animals were accidentally milked and put into the milk supply,” ​Bob Salter, VP of regulatory affairs for Charm Sciences, told DairyReporter.

According to Salter, the dairy farmer can easily take a milk sample from their farm tank and run a test before it is picked up by the milk processor to show that the milk has an undetectable level of antibiotics.

“It gives the farmer a lot more confidence that they’re not at risk for having it turned away [at the receiving dairy]. If he does detect a problem, he doesn’t have to offer it [the milk] for sale and it can then be corrected without involving additional penalty besides loss of sale of milk.” 

Significance and opportunity for ILVO in the US

“ILVO Validation is not very well known here in the US, but it’s being talked about now,” ​Salter said.

“There are other protocols for validating methods here in the US that are similar to what they do in Europe, but there’s no reason why they [ILVO] couldn’t be recognized as a third party lab validation here in the US. It’s just that the drugs and levels that they [ILVO] study are not always so pertinent to the US,” ​Salter said.

According to Charm Sciences, the Charm Cow Side II test can detect eleven drugs at or below US target levels and 30 drugs at or below EU MRLs (maximum residue levels).

How the Charm test fits into FSMA

Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) compliance for most US dairy processors goes into full effect in September 2018, according to the FDA.

A section of that compliance requires that all food processors have a food safety plan that includes a science-based risk assessment and risk-based preventative controls to manage hazards such as antibiotic contamination in milk.

“This [Cowside II] test is a very good verification of process control at the farm and of raw material coming into the dairy. Dairies are not only doing the beta-lactams tests as they come into the dairy but now they have a very wide net of other antibiotics that could potentially be used on farm samples that are verifying antibiotics are not detectable in the milk supply,” ​Salter said.

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