Raw milk is neither “inherently safe” nor “inherently dangerous.” Like any other food, safety depends on how the product is produced and handled. Both conventional dairying methods and “homestead” methods can lead to bacterial contamination of the milk. Raw milk should instead be produced by using specific HACCP-based methods intended for safe raw milk production, not conventional or “homestead” methods. Testing milk samples allows us to catch and correct minor issues before they grow into major problems such as causing foodborne disease outbreaks.
- Certified microbiological labs in BC will perform food safety tests on raw milk samples.
- Farms can set up on-farm labs (see “On-Farm Lab Testing for Raw Milk Farmers“).
- Veterinarians might also be able to recommend local testing resources.
Two certified labs which are testing milk for herdshares are I.G. MicroMed in Richmond and MB Laboratories in Sidney. MB Labs has designed a testing package for milk and dairy products, testing for the “big four” pathogens identified by the BC Centre for Disease Control and the Raw Milk Institute as being of most concern in raw dairy products. All herdshares in BC can use this package whether or not they are project participants and a discount is available for “B.C. Fresh Milk Project” participants. Details of this package are:
- Tests: Total Coliforms, Total (Standard) Plate Count, Fecal Coliforms, E. coli , Campylobacter, Listeria (Total & L. monocytogenes), Salmonella, and Shigella
- Sample Volume: 200 mL or 100 gm
- Collection: Use MBL Microbiology bottle or new ziplock bag
- Shipping: Keep product refrigerated or chilled with icepacks (DO NOT FREEZE). Ship to lab within 30 hrs of collection.
Many courier companies will do overnight deliveries to MB. Commonly used are Dan Foss Courier, FedEx, and Purolator, but check your local courier companies for rates and services. It pays to comparison-shop.
Testing should be done monthly, at a minimum. The test results to aim for are an average coliform count of <10 coliforms/ml. and an average standard/total plate count of <5,000 colony forming units/ml.
See also RAWMI Trainer Charlotte Smith’s article and instructional video “How to Test Your Milk“.