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USDA Announces Changes to European Export Requirements

Feb 12, 2010

Without warning, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a notice to industry late last month outlining changes to procedures for verifying compliance with European Community (EC) export requirements. As of January 26, USDA will accept only farm records to confirm that dairy products meet EC standards for somatic cell and standard plate counts. Silo or tanker test results will no longer be accepted.

According to the notice, a team of EC auditors noted last year that the Agricultural Marketing Service accepted silo and tanker test records, as well as farm records, to determine the counts. The notice explained that silo and tanker testing records are not included in EC regulations, which state that samples must be collected from "milk production holdings." The new USDA interpretation states that these holdings refer to raw milk at the farm level.

Dairy processors that export to EC countries now are required to develop new methods of calculation, along with new databases for record keeping. In the meantime, some farms may have to stop supplying exporting processors until the new procedures are in place.

"IDFA is investigating why the three options for testing compliance have been acceptable by AMS and the EC for the past 12 years and only now are being called into question," said Allen Sayler, IDFA vice president of regulatory affairs and international standards. "It seems unreasonable to make this change suddenly and with no notice to industry. We will be working with USDA and will report any additional information."

A somatic cell count is a count of the white blood cells found in milk. The counts are used as a general gauge of the cow's well-being and stress level. Although the federal threshold in the United States is 750,000 cells per milliliter of milk, the strict standard set by the Pasteurized Milk Order to ensure milk safety, the national average based on the Dairy Herd Improvement Association (DHIA) and USDA Federal Milk Market records is around 300,000 cells. The EC threshold is set at 400,000 cells.

Read the Notice to Industry here.

For more details, contact Sayler at


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