The 2011 National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS) was held April 28- May 4 in Baltimore, Md. The Conference attendees considered 91 proposals, with state delegates passing 57, including one from the Milk Industry Foundation (MIF) and six that were authored by MIF members.
With efforts by almost 100 IDFA members and cooperation from other parts of the dairy industry, the Food and Drug Administration and state regulators, IDFA advocated for reasonable regulations in the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO) that permit new technologies and future study on the implications of the Food Safety Modernization Act on the Grade "A" milk regulations.
Changes for Cottage Cheese
One significant accomplishment will codify the allowance of higher packaging temperatures and longer cooling times for cottage cheese with specific added preservatives and microbial inhibitors. IDFA, with the assistance of its cottage cheese members and dairy ingredient companies, has been working since 2005 to provide FDA with the necessary scientific data from product challenge studies to demonstrate the safety of cultured dairy products at higher filling temperatures.
Conference members also agreed to finalize the regulations for aseptic Grade "A" low-acid milk and milk products that had been successfully evaluated during the Aseptic Pilot Program. This change will incorporate FDA's low-acid canned food (LACF) program requirements, while minimizing regulatory conflict and duplication between LACF and PMO requirements. Additionally, the voluntary International Certification Pilot Program, which allows third-party certifiers to inspect milk plants, farms and milk laboratories located outside the geographic boundaries of the United States, was extended.
"Plenty of advance preparation and teamwork between IDFA staff, MIF members, other industry organizations, and state and federal dairy regulators helped to bring about these important changes to the PMO," said Clay Hough, IDFA senior group vice president. "Our goal with each conference is to increase processing flexibility and decrease unnecessary requirements without compromising public health safety."
New Processing Technologies
The NCIMS conference considered and passed a number of proposals that will permit or study new processing technologies advocated by the dairy industry. These include modifying regulations for installing and operating micro-filtration systems used before heat pasteurization and pumps used to inject liquid dairy ingredients as part of the pasteurizer system, as well as editorial changes to the PMO for the use of ultraviolet light systems used to disinfect water. Also, a study committee will form to review the use of ultraviolet illumination of milk and milk products as an adjunct to thermal pasteurization
After a lengthy debate, state regulators rejected a proposal to change the regulation to lower somatic cell counts in individual dairy producers' milk from 750,000 to 400,000 cells per milliliter by a narrow one-vote margin. The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) submitted the proposal, which received support from IDFA, FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with the goal of improving milk quality and aligning the U.S. standard with global trade requirements.
Three other MIF proposals did not pass. One sought to provide clarification on when different forms of milk-derived ingredients would be determined on an actual weight or reconstituted basis for non-standard milk products. FDA proposed an unworkable amendment that said all dried dairy ingredients must be calculated on a reconstituted basis, which prompted IDFA to request no action.
State regulators voted against two other MIF proposals that would have increased the rating inspection frequency from 24 months to 36 months and modified the penalties against processing plants when state regulatory programs were deficient. However, the Conference passed MIF's proposal directing the NCIMS Liaison Committee to study and then provide comment and stakeholder outreach on the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act, as well as its effect on the current regulations and inspections procedures for the NCIMS. This will require an in-depth review of all current regulations.
The NCIMS Conference is held every two years to allow FDA, state dairy regulators and the Grade "A" dairy industry to submit and consider changes to NCIMS operating documents: the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO), Methods of Making Sanitation Ratings (MMSR) and the Procedures, which include the Constitution and Bylaws. These changes affect the state regulatory requirements for Grade "A" farms and processing plants. Changes at the NCIMS Conference are applicable to Grade "A" dairy farms, processing plants and milk products.
FDA will release the final report in October 2011 and implementation of the changes must take place by October 2012, unless other dates are specifically noted.
A summary of the outcomes of the NCIMS proposals is available here.
For more information, contact Jon Gardner, IDFA vice president of regulatory affairs and international standards, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Cary Frye, IDFA vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs, at email@example.com.