After fighting it for no less than two decades, National Milk Producer Federation delegates approved a resolution to lower Grade A somatic cell count limits to 400,000 cells/ml by 2014.
NCIMS approves changes to The Pasteurized Milk Ordinance, which regulates Grade A milk for interstate shipment.
Approval of the NMPF proposal came at the group’s annual meeting in Reno, Nev. last week, says Jamie Jonker, NMPF’s VP of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs. NMPF had previously opposed the reduction, claiming that somatic cells are a milk quality issue but not a food safety issue.
But a challenge by the European Union (EU), which requires certification that individual farms meet the 400,000 SCC standard in order to export dairy products and dairy ingredients to the EU, prompted NMPF to act.
NMPF will propose that the cell count limit be brought down in three steps. On January 1, 2012, the limit will be lowered to 600,000. On January 1, 2013, the limit will be lowered to 500,000. And then the final step to 400,000 will be reached January 1, 2014.
In addition, NMPF is asking the Food and Drug Administration to allow for “regulatory discretion” due to seasonality and natural disasters. NMPF is asking FDA to allow individual states to allow variances on a case-by-case basis if a local crisis erupts that disrupts normal milk production conditions.
In addition, NMPF wants the current enforcement policy to continue. If a producer’s SCC levels exceed the existing standard two of the four most recent months, the producer would be sent a warning level. If the SCC exceeds the standard three of five months, he/she would be de-listed as a Grade A producer until cell levels are brought back down below the standard.