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Dairy Industry Mulls New Approach To Food Safety

Dealing with actual threats to food safety rather than perceived ones is the goal of the Canadian dairy industry following a special conference that brought together processors and producers.

While dairy products have an enviable safety record, the industry wants to make risk assessment a bigger part of the internationally recognized HACCP approach it employs on farm and in processing plants, spokesmen say.

It also wants to establish better communications on safety issues among the producers, processors, retailers and distributors, adds Richard Doyle, executive director of Dairy Farmers of Canada.

“We pasteurize milk to destroy pathogens,” he says. “We want to look at whether the pathogens we face require us to heat milk to the level we currently do.” For example there’re no recorded cases of brucellosis in Canada “so do we have to heat milk to a level that will kill that bacteria when it isn’t there?”

Don Jarvis, CEO of the Dairy Processors Association of Canada said, “In the dairy industry, all partners realize that Canadians deserve safe food and that we must do all we can to deserve and earn consumer confidence. Canadian food is safe. Incidents are few and far between. The food industry is very conscious of the need to show consumers we do everything we can do enhance food safety.”

The industry wants Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to identify which pathogens they want treated, he says. “We can’t go forward terribly far until that’s done.”

If the pathogens in raw milk can be fully identified, then it can be precisely treated. “There’s no point in overkill in processing. It would be less expensive and open up different treatment methods.”

The dairy industry also requires a better traceability system, Jarvis adds. Each sector has its own traceability plan “and we need to make them work together.”

The industry was an early adopter of HACCP and other food safety measures. Doyle says it wants to maintain that leadership position through employing risk assessment to judge how much milk should be treated. “We want to see if we can simplify our approach and reduce costs in processing but keep our products safe. We’re considering ideas on how we can do it better. We want to tailor our food safety program to the risks we face.”

He says the components of the dairy industry need to coordinate their communications on safety issues. “We all have HACCP programs but we need to make sure they’re integrated. In the past, we’ve worked in our individual silos. We have to have a continuous loop of communication among ourselves.”

The next steps for the industry are to bring Health Canada and CFIA on board “so we can all learn how to advance food safety together,” Doyle said. It may also require a dairy industry round table “to get all the players together to share what we’re doing and where we want to go.”

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