Antibiotic residues in milk and dairy products in China: occurrence and human health concerns

Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2023 Nov;30(53):113138-113150. doi: 10.1007/s11356-023-30312-2. Epub 2023 Oct 18.


Although veterinary antibiotics are essential in preventing and treating clinical diseases in cattle, the frequent use of antibiotics leads to antibiotic residues in milk and dairy products, consequently threatening human health. The massive milk consumption makes it necessary to assess antibiotic pollution and health impact comprehensively. Hence, we conducted a systematic review to evaluate antibiotics in milk and dairy products and their potential health risk. We searched four databases using multiple keyword combinations to retrieve 1582 pieces of literature and finally included eighteen articles to analyze antibiotic residues in milk and dairy products. These studies detected seven antibiotics in different regions of China. Quinolones and β-lactam antibiotics exceeded the MRL for raw and commercial milk. The maximum levels of sulfonamides and tetracyclines were detected in the same raw milk sample, exceeding the MRL. The estimated THQ and HI values in milk and dairy products are less than 1 for adults, indicating negligible noncarcinogenic health risk of antibiotics through consuming milk and dairy products. Children face higher health risks than adults, with the HI and THQ of quinolones exceeding 1. It is worth noting that quinolones accounted for nearly 89% of health risks associated with all antibiotics. Finally, we put forward possible research directions in the future, such as specific health effects of total dietary exposure to low levels of antibiotics. In addition, policymakers should effectively improve this problem from the perspectives of antibiotic use supervision, antibiotic residue analysis in food, and continuous environmental monitoring and control.

Keywords: Antibiotics; China; Dairy product; Milk; Monte Carlo; Probability health risk.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / analysis
  • Cattle
  • Child
  • China
  • Dairy Products / analysis
  • Drug Residues* / analysis
  • Humans
  • Milk / chemistry
  • Quinolones* / analysis
  • Sulfanilamide / analysis


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Sulfanilamide
  • Quinolones