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Regulations Governing Grade "A" Milk (2 VAC 5-490)

Dairy Services provides permitting and inspection services to Virginia's approximately 900 grade "A" dairy farms producing unpasteurized milk for use in grade "A" milk products like milk, cream, cottage cheese, and yogurt. Virginia grade "A" dairy farms produce approximately two billion pounds of milk each year. The regulations require a minimum of four inspections per year and four milk quality samples in any six month period on each grade "A" dairy farm. Inspections focus on facilities and equipment repair and maintenance, cleaning and sanitization of milking equipment, milk cooling and storage requirements, water supply, and general housekeeping. Milk samples are tested for numbers of bacteria, numbers of somatic cells (a measure of udder infection), animal drug-residues (medicinals are used to treat dairy cattle), brucellosis (a disease of cattle and humans), and added water.

Enforcement of quality and inspection requirements is through an administrative process of warning notices and permit suspensions. Inspection personnel emphasize customer service, education and training during inspections to achieve voluntary compliance with regulatory requirements.

The regulation requires that all milk be tested for the presence of animal drug-residues prior to processing. Milk screened positive for animal drug-residues at processors is confirmatory tested in Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services laboratories. All milk confirmed positive is destroyed and the permit of the dairy farm responsible for contaminating the load of milk is suspended. Dairy Services and laboratory personnel are on call around the clock to handle incidents of animal drug residues in milk.

Virginia's Grade "A" milk processors are permitted and inspected by the Virginia Department of Health. The regulation requires that all Grade "A" milk and milk products be pasteurized prior to packaging and sale to consumers. Pasteurization is a heat treatment process which destroys all pathogens in the milk and insures milk product safety and quality. Only Grade "A" milk and milk products may be sold in Virginia.

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