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US dairy industry plea to boost raw milk regulation

By Rory Harrington , 18-Nov-2009

Raw milk products pose a “significant food safety hazard” and facilities that make them should be covered by the new food safety bill, said the two largest US dairy trade bodies.

The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) have urged lawmakers due to mark up the Food Safety Modernization Act later today to ensure plants producing unpasteurised products are no longer exempt from FDA scrutiny.

Regulatory exemptions

Such facilities do not have to comply with food safety plans, record keeping and access, and other regulations that are triggered by registration with FDA. Under the present rules, raw milk plants are also exempt from national regulations enforced at state level known as the Pasteurised Milk Ordinance (PMO), said the industry bodies.

In a letter to two senior members the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, the dairy groups called for a measure obliging all facilities producing raw or unpasteurised milk products for direct human consumption to “register with FDA and adhere to the tried-and-true food safety requirements that are followed by all other facilities producing milk products”.

"Before pasteurization became widely utilized during the 1920s, human consumption of raw milk was one of the major sources of food borne illnesses and one of the primary causes of infant mortality," wrote IDFA CEO Connie Tipton and NMPF CEO Jerry Kozak. "It is important to the health of the American public, and for the continued confidence in the dairy industry, that the new food safety legislation bolsters the success of the PMO program and applies any new FDA requirements to raw milk and raw dairy products."

Track record

The PMO, which is updated every two years, covers all aspects of hazard analysis, planning and monitoring from farm and processing plants to retail outlets resulting in “very low numbers of food safety problems for pasteurized dairy products”, said the bodies. But raw milk products for human consumption have a poorer track record and have been linked with a “much higher incidence of food-related illnesses”, they added.

The bodies also called on the bill to recognize that state inspections of dairy facilities under the PMO already meet necessary food safety requirements and no duplicate functions are needed.

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