Following months of preparation and collaboration, dairy industry representatives met with state regulators and Food and Drug Administration officials at the recent National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS) Conference and gained successful outcomes on two top issues. IDFA advocated effectively for reasonable regulations in the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO) that will allow it to align with pending requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The attendees also agreed to allow industry sufficient time to develop sampling criteria and rapid test methods to expand the requirements for testing raw milk for additional drug residues.

The conference, which was held the last week of April in Portland, Oregon, drew 360 attendees who represented dairy regulators from 49 states and Puerto Rico, FDA and more than 150 companies and stakeholders. Of the 100 proposals under consideration, the attendees passed 49. Changes accepted at the NCIMS Conference are applicable to Grade “A” dairy farms, processing plants and milk products. IDFA expects FDA to issue the final report in October 2015 and to require implementation by October 2016, unless other dates are specifically noted.

PMO Aligned with FSMA

FDA officials have long made it clear that an outright exemption from FSMA requirements would not be granted for Grade “A” milk plants operating under the PMO.  Because the final preventive controls rule is expected to be released this summer, conference attendees made it a priority to align the PMO with FSMA to ensure Grade “A” milk plants are not subjected to dual or conflicting sets of regulatory requirements.

“These changes were carefully negotiated with FDA so that the Grade “A” milk program would be seen as being equivalent to FSMA, and milk plants would not be subject to dual FSMA and  PMO inspections,” said Cary Frye, IDFA vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs and the NCIMS program chair. “These changes will not apply to non-Grade “A” dairy facilities, such as plants that manufacture cheese, ice cream and butter.”

Expanded Drug Residue Testing

In a drive to expand the types of veterinary drugs tested for in raw milk that is used to make Grade “A” milk products, conference attendees considered several proposals and agreed upon a pathway to require testing for drugs beyond the current required testing for beta lactam residues.

The NCIMS Committee tasked with modifying drug residue testing programs will work over the next two years to determine appropriate rapid testing methods and raw milk tanker sampling frequencies for conducting these expanded drug residues tests.

The attendees also agreed on new procedures that will allow for voluntary testing for non-beta lactam drug residues using test methods that are available in the market but not yet reviewed or approved by FDA and the NCIMS, which is a goal IDFA members have had for some time. Implementation of requirements for testing milk tankers for additional drugs will take effect no earlier than 2017, and the industry will have the needed flexibility to conduct voluntary testing for other types of drugs residues in milk.

Somatic Cell Count Standard

IDFA submitted two proposals that were not passed at the conference. One asked the states to consider lowering the somatic cell count standard from 750,000 cells/g  to 400,000 cells/g to align with European Union requirements. If it had passed, this proposal would have eliminated the burden of record keeping, milk segregation and derogation reports under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Health Certificate program. The proposal failed, 18 to 32, by a written ballot that did not identify each state’s vote.

In the other proposal, IDFA sought regulations to allow for transportation of yogurt from one plant to another for final consumer packaging without re-pasteurization. Although it didn’t pass, IDFA will work with regulators on a state-by-state basis to accomplish the same goal.

In addition to Frye, other IDFA staff members who participated at the conference were Clay Hough, IDFA senior group vice president; John Allan, IDFA vice president for regulatory affairs and international standards; and Michelle Matto, IDFA’s consultant for nutrition and labeling.

“IDFA would like to thank all industry members for their participation in NCIMS committees, on the councils and the board of directors, and at IDFA meetings,” said Hough. “Before and during the conference, our unified industry efforts and the hard work of many employees at IDFA member companies helped us to achieve these successful results."

Elections for the NCIMS Board also were held at the conference. Jodeen Meenderink of Dean Foods Company completed her 12-year term as the Industry Representative on the NCIMS Executive Board. She provided the Board with an expert understanding of milk regulations, dairy processing, quality and dedication to represent the entire dairy industry’s interest on complex issues. Rebecca Piston of HP Hood LLC was elected by the state delegates as a new Industry Representative.

IDFA members may login in to read an in-depth summary of the proposals that passed, as well as the ones that were considered but not passed. 

For more information, contact Frye at or