Dairy Farming & Food Safety
By Andre Teixeira, DVM, PhD, Director of Veterinary Affairs
Milk and milk-derived products can be an important source of nutrients and microorganisms that are beneficial to humans; however, these products can carry a variety of other microorganisms and can be a significant source of foodborne pathogens. Despite the modern dairy farmer’s contribution to making the food supply in the United States one of the safest in the world, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that approximately 300,000 people are hospitalized every year due to foodborne illness.
But if milk is (for the most part) pasteurized, why does it still pose a risk to the consumer? Foodborne pathogens could be present in milk as a result of harvesting it from an animal with a mammary gland infection or if the milk came into contact with other contaminants at the farm after it was harvested. Unpasteurized dairy products as well as those that become re-contaminated after pasteurization are also potential sources of pathogens that can pose a risk to the consumer.
Keeping our animals and crops healthy and disease-free is vital to providing safe and nutritious food to consumers, but identifying and understanding on-farm risk factors can be challenging. Research and educational outreach are key in helping veterinarians and producers act together to prevent and treat animal diseases as well as reduce the risk of product re-contamination. Maintaining a healthy and profitable industry should be the goal of every dairy producer in the world, and it goes without saying that every modern dairy farmer needs to consider the consequences of animal care on the quality of their final products.
Free food safety resources are available through the CDC’s “Winnable Battles” website. “Winnable Battles” is an effort to identify “public health priorities with large-scale impact on health and known effective strategies to address them.”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Surveillance for foodborne-disease outbreaks in the United States. Preliminary FoodNet data on the incidence of infection with pathogens transmitted commonly through food.
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