PITTSBORO, N.C. — North Carolina dairies are providing wholesome milk to our families and communities, and people can feel secure that NC milk is sanitary.
The North Carolina State Auditor on June 20 published a bold report alleging that the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services is too lenient in its inspections of our state’s Grade A dairy farms. However, the Auditor’s office didn’t find a single instance of milk from our dairies that was actually contaminated with pathogens or other harmful agents. Every single milk shipment from a Grade A dairy in NC is tested for bacteria and drug residues.
In today’s Grade A dairies, no one is sitting on a stool hand milking cows into a pail—in fact, hand-milking is illegal. The entire milking process, from the cow’s udder to cooling and storage tanks to pasteurization vats to the bottle, is a closed system: the milk is never touched by human hands, let alone any other source of external contamination. And if there were a break in that system, it would be addressed by inspectors to ensure the safety of the milk. The Auditor’s report didn’t show a single instance where dairy inspectors let such an actual imminent risk to public health slip by.
Dairy farm inspectors do sometimes find minor infractions of regulations; these are farms, after all, and it is impossible for every surface and area to be perfectly neat, clean and free of bugs or mice, especially in barns. According to the logic of the Auditor’s report, those farms should have their licenses taken if they have such technical violations on two inspections in a row. This draconian approach would be devastating to our state’s few remaining dairies, and would do nothing to protect public health because these technicalities do not affect the safety of the milk our dairy farms produce. The science just isn’t there, so why would we put these farms out of business?
It is a disservice to our hardworking dairy farmers and the public in general for State Auditor Beth Wood to state she is not comfortable drinking NC-grown Grade A milk. If anything, her report shows that there are too many technicalities in our Grade A milk laws. Rules, and inspectors, should focus on science-based risks, not whether there are cracks in milk parlor floors or screen doors left open or any of the other dozens of infractions possible under the law. No food safety program can ever be perfect, but the NCDA&CS and our dairy farmers have an outstanding track record of delivering sanitary, wholesome products, and the Auditor’s report proves it.
— Roland McReynolds, Executive Director, Carolina Farm Stewardship Association
For more news from North Carolina, click here.