Ethanol Blog
Cheryl Anderson DTN Staff Reporter

Monday 04/22/13

Distillation Renders Antibiotic Residues Inactive

Leading researchers claim that antibiotic residues in distillers grains are largely inactive and do not present any health hazards to humans.

Recently, the Center for Food Safety and Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy filed a petition with the Food and Drug Administration asking that antibiotic use in ethanol production be prohibited, claiming that residues in distillers grains leads to the creation of antibiotic-resistant "superbugs."

Researchers lead by Dr. Gerald C. Shurson, professor of swine nutrition and management at the University of Minnesota, conducted a survey of 159 samples of wet and dry distillers grains and proved that antibiotic residue levels in distillers grains are well-below safety levels and are mostly biologically inactive.

Shurson told DTN that the motivation for the survey was due to concerns expressed by end users in Japan and Europe who were cautious about feed safety. Shurson said that the research results were needed "so we could speak intelligently and accurately about antibiotic residues in distillers grains and their risks in animal feeds."

The data showed some residues present, but only in very tiny amounts, and only one sample showed any biologic activity.

"Based on the preliminary results, our conclusion was that there are no concerns about using antibiotics at current levels in ethanol/DDG production," he said. "What we found was many-fold lower than FDA's recommendation for feed."

Shurson added that with antibiotics to control bacterial infections at ethanol plants, ethanol yields would be reduced, incomplete fermentation would leave starch and sugars in the distillers grains, which would tie up amino acids during drying and reduce nutrition quality. Lower yields, reduced quality and extra labor costs to control bacteria would result in lost revenue for ethanol plants at a time when they are already strained from high corn prices.

The final paper "Presence and Biological Activity of Antibiotics Used in Fuel Ethanol and Corn Co-Products" was published March 5 in the Journal of Animal Science.

Cheryl Anderson can be reached at

Posted at 6:55PM CDT 04/22/13 by Cheryl Anderson
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