The “B.C. Fresh Milk” (BCFM) Project

Introduction

Canadian laws prohibiting the sale and distribution of farm-fresh, unprocessed milk are based the assumption that it is likely to contain pathogens which cause disease outbreaks and that there is no way to mitigation this risk.  However, this assumption could be based on obsolete information.   It is very true that studies of raw milk have found that from 4% to 26% of raw milk from commercial dairy farms tests positive for pathogens depending on the study*; however, safe raw milk CAN be produced by using appropriate methods.  The California-based Raw Milk Institute (est.  2011) has developed an on-farm food safety (OFFS) program called the “Risk Analysis and Management Planning” (RAMP) system, which train farmers in production methods that prevent contamination and preserve quality.  BCHA  provides this training to farmers in British Columbia.

In a May 2015 meeting, the BC Government stated that as a condition for legalization, it needs to see evidence that legalization won’t result in increased rates of food-borne disease outbreaks.   This small pilot project examines the effectiveness of RAWMI training, in preparation for a formal research project to be undertaken by a research university. Participating microdairy herdshare farms in B.C., with both trained and untrained agisters, have volunteered to send in milk samples for bacterial testing.   Lab test results are published as they arrive, and are thus available to the public, researchers, and governments.  We are also researching:

  • What are the best methods for preventing contamination?  How do different milking procedures (e.g. udder preparation, milk cooling, equipment cleaning) and on-farm food safety systems such as RAWMI training  affect milk quality?
  • How can legalization be done such that it will be affordable for  herdshares of all sizes?    Onerous laws mandating expensive requirements which farms can’t afford will drive them out of business or underground.

We invite all herdshares farms in B.C. to participate in this project.  Mentoring from RAWMI-trained agisters is available to all participants.  Test results are posted below with each farm given a 3-digit code in order to provide confidentiality.

On-Farm Food Safety Plans

On-farm food safety (OFFS) plans are becoming standard in many agricultural sectors, including dairying. All licensed commercial dairy farmers in Canada must have these plans, and the mandatory Canadian Quality Milk / ProAction program is a federally-recognized OFFS program.

The Raw Milk Institute has developed a HACCP-based on-farm food safety system, the “Risk Analysis and Management Program.”  RAWMI-training involves developing two safety plans, the Risk Analysis and Management Plan (RAMP) and the Standard Sanitary Operating Procedures (SSOP).   These OFFS plans can be created for any farm with any type of dairy animals.   Each farm is individual, and the plans are customized for the conditions of each.

In the BC Fresh Milk Project, participants are classified as “trained” if they are: (1) testing milk samples regularly and are meeting RAWMI Common Standards, (2) have received on-farm mentoring from a RAWMI trainer, and (3) have written their farm’s RAMP and SSOP.  All other participants are classified as “in-training.”

Listed below are RAMPs and SSOPs of current trained participants in the “B.C. Fresh Milk Project.

Farm 348/644 (RAWMI-Listed farm, the first in Canada (2013)):

Farm 517 (fully trained and now applying to become RAWMI-Listed):

Other OFFS plans being written by our project participants in-training will be added to this list as they are finalized.

More information: 

Test Results

Test results can be compared to government and institutional bacterial testing standards for raw milk and pasteurized milk production.

See also the complete data-set (Google spreadsheet) and original individual test result PDFs from the lab.  For more information about the project, see :  http://tinyurl.com/bcfm-project

Donate to help fund this project (details coming soon)

Current number of active participants:   6 farms (3 cow herds, 3 goat herds).
Current number of milk samples tested:    208
Current number of pathogen tests performed on samples:  832

Samples testing pathogen-free:  100%


The Data

*References for studies of pathogens in raw milk from conventional commercial dairies:

  • Jayarao, B.M. and Henngin, D.R. 2001. Prevalence of Foodborne Pathogens in Bulk Tank Milk. Journal of Dairy Science, 84:2157 – 2162
  • Jayarao, B. M., Donaldson, S. C., Straley, A., Sawant, A. A., Hegde, N. V., and Brown, J. L. 2006. A survey of foodborne pathogens in bulk tank milk and raw milk consumption among farm families in Pennsylvania. Journal of Dairy Science, 89:2451-8.
  • Rohrbach, R. W., F. A. Draughon, P. M. Davidson, and S. P. Oliver. 1992. Prevalence of Listeria monocytogenes, Campylobacter jejuni, Yersinia enterocolitica and Salmonella in bulk tank milk: Risk factors and risk of human exposure. Journal of Food Protection, 55:93–97
  • Steele, M. L., W. B. McNab, C. Poppe, M. W. Griffiths, S. Chen, S. A. Degrandis, L. C. Fruhner, C. A. Larkin, J. A. Lynch, and J. A. Odumeru. 1997. Survey of Ontario bulk tank raw milk for food-borne pathogens. Journal of Food Protection, 60:1341–1346.