After fighting it for more than a decade, National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) delegates have approved a resolution to lower the Grade A somatic cell count limit to 400,000 cells/ml by 2014.
The proposal will be made at the 2011 National Conference on Inter-state Milk Shipments (NCIMS), which will be held in Baltimore, Md., from April 28 through May 4, 2011. NCIMS is the body that approves changes to the Pasteurized Milk Ordi-nance, which regulates Grade A milk for interstate shipment.
NMPF’s approval of the resolution came at its annual meeting in Reno, Nev., in October, says Jamie Jonker, the group’s vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs. Delegates had previously opposed the reduction, claiming that somatic cells are a milk quality issue, 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 ingredients to the EU, prompted NMPF to act.
NMPF proposes that the cell count limit be brought down in three steps: On Jan. 1, 2012, the limit would be lowered to 600,000. On Jan. 1, 2013, it would be lowered to 500,000. The final step would take place on Jan. 1, 2014, when the limit would be lowered to 400,000.
In addition, NMPF is asking the Food and Drug Administration to allow for “regulatory discretion” due to seasonality and natural disasters. That means individual states would be allowed variances on a case-by-case basis if a local crisis disrupts normal milk production conditions.
NMPF also wants the current enforcement policy to continue. According to that policy, if a producer’s SCC levels exceed the limit in two of the four most recent months, he or she is sent a warning. If SCC levels exceed the limit in three of five months, the producer is delisted as a Grade A producer until the levels are brought back down below the limit.