Efforts to impose added regulations on dairy farms under the new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) are not warranted because milk leaving farms for further processing is not a significant public health risk from intentional adulteration, the National Milk Producers Federation wrote in comments to the Food and Drug Administration.
The FDA is reviewing comments about the FSMA law, which is the most significant change to food safety legislation in many years. Part of the scope of FSMA is to enhance the safety protocols around foods that may be subject to intentional adulteration, by terrorists looking to threaten or injure people, or cause economic harm to certain companies or industries.
"We disagree with the premise that on-farm milk destined for pasteurization is a high-risk food," said Beth Briczinski, NMPF's vice president of dairy foods and nutrition. Raw fluid milk for pasteurization moves among various regions of the country and is in constant flux to meet specific processing demands. Because of the challenge of predicting the precise processing facility and type of product or ingredient to which an individual farm's milk is ultimately destined, NMPF concluded that "activities on dairy farms should not be addressed through this rule."
"Dairy farmers currently implement a number of general security strategies to protect the investment of their property, equipment, animals and milk supply, which further reduce any risk that may be represented by on-farm milk destined for pasteurization," NMPF wrote.
The organization added that if FDA were to require farms to comply with specific aspects of food defense regulations, such requirements should be developed in close collaboration with federal and state stakeholders, as well as the dairy industry, through the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS).
NMPF also noted that many elements of food defense are already being employed by dairy farms for reasons related to biosecurity. Because biosecurity measures that help prevent the introduction of infectious and contagious diseases among cattle also help prevent the spread of harmful problems in the milk from those cows, new security measures would only be warranted "when a credible threat of intentional adulteration against the milk supply is identified."
In addition to its perspective on food defense and dairy farms, NMPF also submitted comments to the FDA with the International Dairy Foods Association, focused on preventing intentional adulteration at dairy processing plants.
Those comments also expressed concern with the direction of FDA's proposal, and asked the agency to "fundamentally reconsider its proposed approach." Like dairy farms, dairy processing facilities have worked with FDA to take an active approach in applying food defense concepts to their manufacturing operations, according to the two organizations.
IDFA and NMPF proposed that FDA only require basic food defense plans consisting of cost-effective mitigation strategies, allowing facilities to then identify reserved focused mitigation strategies that can be quickly implemented in response to heightened concerns or credible threats, should they be deemed necessary.
The joint comments also emphasized that each processing facility and dairy farm is unique. If FDA were to require food defense plans, the dairy industry must have the flexibility to address intentional adulteration in ways that are custom-tailored with respect to their individual attributes, rather than prescribing "one-size-fits-all" specific criteria.