To investigate the drug residue status in commercial liquid milk products in China, 190 samples, including ultrahigh temperature milk (n = 168) and pasteurized milk (n = 22) samples, were collected in 2019. Milk samples were analyzed for the presence of any of the 61 veterinary drugs in them by using a screening assay combined with an ultraperformance liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry analysis. Ten (5.26%) samples were found positive for β-lactams, tetracyclines, and aminoglycosides, and six (3.16%) samples were confirmed residual for penicillin G (n = 6; 3.16%), tetracycline (n = 1; 0.53%), and oxytetracycline (n = 1; 0.53%), with the maximum concentration of 2.85, 40.64, and 12.35 μg kg−1, respectively. Drug residue detection rate in group II (4.55%; the local city domestic brands) was higher than that in group I (2.70%; the major brands of China) and group III (2.78%; the imported brands into China) and higher in domestic samples (3.39%) than that in imported samples (2.78%), and higher in pasteurized milk samples (9.09%) than in ultrahigh temperature milk samples (2.38%). All drug residue levels were far below the regulated maximum residue limits. However, based on some veterinary drug residues detected in the samples, there is a potential veterinary drug risk in liquid milk products in the Chinese market, and this situation deserves the attention of governments and consumers.

  • One hundred ninety milk samples were analyzed for 61 veterinary drug residues in China.

  • Samples were analyzed with a comprehensive analysis (group, sample origin, milk type).

  • Samples were analyzed by the Charm rapid test kit and the UPLC-MS/MS analysis.

  • All drug residue levels were far below the regulated maximum residue limits.

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