Dairy sales cannot prosper without consumer trust.

Assuring food safety and quality are non-negotiable deliverables people seek in the foods they purchase. Fortunately, our industry has a strong history of meeting these expectations of providing dairy foods that are not only nutritious but safe and of the highest quality.

But that doesn’t mean it’s time to rest on our laurels. In fact, much progress continues thanks to efforts led through the nationwide Dairy Foods Research Centers network, created by dairy farmers more than 35 years ago to provide innovative, science-backed solutions related to consumer demand and business needs and trends. Dairy food safety is an important part of this network’s focus.

Additionally, the farmer-founded Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and its Food Safety Committee has united the dairy supply chain around this priority. Dairy processors are amplifying farmer checkoff dollars in important research areas that benefit everyone.

Much credit goes to the Innovation Center’s philosophy of uniting all aspects of the industry regardless of size or processing style. In fact, some of the industry’s biggest cheesemakers have been more than generous with their insights and resources for the smaller players. The Innovation Center rightfully operates with an understanding that a black eye for one company is a black eye for all.

A focus on cheese

That’s why we’re excited to share some new science-backed innovations to help the artisanal and farmstead cheesemakers, whose numbers exceed 1,000. We believe their products will only continue to grow in popularity as consumers seek more locally-produced food.

One area of research focused on bringing, an important cheesemaking step that involves the cheese soaking in a saltwater solution to impart salt into the cheese. It is key to improving the texture and flavor of cheese, but the process could present a food safety risk if the system isn’t properly cleansed and operated.

The dairy checkoff teamed with the Food Research Institute (FRI) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to develop an easy-to-apply hydrogen peroxide-based solution that helps keep brine tanks clean and reduces the risk of pathogen contamination. FRI collected many brine samples from Wisconsin cheesemakers that showed the technology is effective in enhancing food safety measures. Cheesemakers should check with their regulatory agencies to understand if hydrogen peroxide is an approved tool for use.

Another project done with FRI focused on raw milk cheese. While we support the effectiveness of pasteurization, we recognize there are other production methods. Some raw milk cheese producers partially heat treat their milk before the cheesemaking process to reduce listeria risk, but they never had science-based tools to tell them exactly how much protection different levels of heating provide.

These guidelines are now published and include pathogen control curves at various time-temperature combinations, which we believe will encourage more raw milk cheesemakers to adopt the thermal treatment of their milk. In fact, we have seen an increase in the number of cheesemakers using this process, according to an American Cheese Society survey.

Finally, we worked with the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s food science department on additional listeria control techniques, including a focus on wooden aging boards as a source of new and novel anti-listerial compounds.

Each research step we take is one more step toward growing our industry safely and maintaining the one aspect that cannot be compromised: consumer trust.

To learn more about your national dairy checkoff, visit www.USDairy.com/for-farmers or to reach us directly, send an email to TalkToTheCheckoff@dairy.org.

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(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2023
July 20, 2023

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