Raw Milk is Held to Same or Higher Standards as Pasteurized Milk

Grade A licensed raw milk meets or exceeds all regulatory standards for pasteurized milk. Below are some highlights of the existing regulations for raw milk that would remain unchanged under Texas HB 46.

  • Dairy farms, both facilities and records, are inspected twice every 6 months (217.26a)
  • If a condition is found that poses an imminent health hazard, the department is required to suspend the dairy’s permit immediately (217.26d)
  • Samples of the milk are collected at least every six weeks and tested for: bacterial counts, coliform counts, somatic cell counts, water adulteration, and cooling temperatures (217.27)
    • At least twice every six months, the samples are also tested for pathogenic bacteria
    • At least four times every six months, the samples are also tested for antibiotics
  • Grade A raw milk must meet the following standards (217.28)
    • Cooled to 45 degrees or less within 2 hours (also regulated in 217.29s)
    • Somatic cell counts not to exceed 750,000 per milliliter (ml) for cow’s milk or 1,000,000/ml for goat’s milk
    • Bacteria limits of 20,000 per ml (not applicable to cultured products)
    • Coliform not to exceed 10 per ml
    • Pathogen limit of zero
  • Section 217.29, Sanitation Requirements for Grade A Raw Milk, has 20 subparts, which have in turn multiple sub-subparts, of rules (217.29). Some highlights include:
    • Abnormal milk shall be discarded, and animals which show evidence of abnormal secretion must be isolated from the non-abnormal milk and equipment cleaned (a)
    • Milk barn must meet detailed construction and cleanliness requirements (b, c, e-g)
    • Animal yard shall be properly graded to prevent standing pools of water or waste, housing areas maintained to prevent soiling of animals udders and flanks (d)
    • Clean water in sufficient quantity for the dairy operations (h)
    • Containers, utensils and equipment must meet standards for construction (type of materials), cleaning, sanitization, storage and handling (i-m)
    • The animal and the milking equipment must be free from contamination (n-p)
    • People doing the milking must have clean hands, wear clean outer garments, and be free of infection (q, r)
    • Effective insect and rodent control is required (t)
  • Animal Health: All herds shall be tested and found free of tuberculosis and brucellosis before any milk is sold; herds shall be retested at least every 12 months; cattle herds participate in brucellosis ring testing by Texas Animal Health Commission. For other diseases, the department may require physical, chemical, or bacteriological tests (217.20)
  • Plans for Grade A Raw for Retail Milk Dairy Farms shall be submitted to the department for approval before work is begun (217.30)

We have prepared a side-by-side comparison of the raw milk and pasteurized milk regulations, and can provide it upon request.

The Texas Association of Dairymen has stated that raw milk is not held to the same standards because their co-ops have made a marketing decision to test the milk from their producer farms more frequently. But there is no regulatory oversight of the co-ops’ independent testing. The co-ops can choose to use milk that does not meet the regulatory standards for fluid milk for cheese, other processed uses, or even to dilute it with higher-quality milk in order to meet the standards.

Moreover, comparing the conventional dairy industry to the direct-marketing raw milk farms ignores significant risk factors that are present in the conventional industry. The conventional industry handles very large quantities of milk that is commingled from multiple different farms and transported for centralized processing. In contrast, the Raw for Retail dairies are small farms that bottle their own milk on-site with no commingling. In one day, a co-op will commingle tens of thousands of gallons of milk, more than many raw milk producers will sell in an entire year.

For example, on March 11, a processor in Waco recalled 64,000 units of milk that had already been distributed to stores and schools because it had been improperly pasteurized. (See www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm246920.htm) The 64,000 units were a combination of half gallon and half pint containers, so the total quantity of milk recalled was between 4,000 and 32,000 gallons of milk. The problem was traced to a failure n pasteurization that was only two hours long, during which time period the processor produced as much milk as many raw milk farmers produce in an entire year.