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Do dairy farms need more milk security?

By Nate Wilson
March 26, 2014

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has opened a public comment period with the nation’s state agriculture departments to hear their suggestions for hardening the security of dairy farm milk houses and bulk milk tanks. Design of potential new security regulations comes in the final implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 (FSMA). Under the act, FDA alone is tasked with oversight of developing anti-terrorism security measures to be implemented on dairy farms. State recommendations to FDA are due by March 31, 2014 and will be published in the Federal Register.

Looking at dairy farms, FDA zeroed-in on the potential security threat to terrorists adulterating milk. “Fluid milk storage and loading in a dairy farm operation appear to pose a significant vulnerability.”*

“Specifically, for fluid milk storage tanks, we, (FDA) seek comment on whether and what focused mitigation strategies would be appropriate and feasible given current dairy farming practices.” FDA notes several compelling problems that could arise from an intentional adulteration of one farm’s bulk milk shipment:

1. That even a small farm’s milk will be co-mingled with larger amounts collected from other farms increasing the magnitude of the event.

2. The short shelf life of fluid milk, requiring its immediate processing and distribution, increases the potential adverse public health impact of an attack on a farm bulk tank before authorities can comprehend, react and get ahead of the situation.

3. The large cross-section of the public that would be affected by a potential attack and the effect on the public perception on the safety of the nation’s overall food supply, since milk is an ingredient in a vast array of food products.