Milk Hygiene Sector

Milk Hygiene Sector

The Milk Hygiene Section was established in 2007 to implement hygiene controls for the dairy industry, taking into consideration the various principles of EU & local legislation, which lay down generic hygiene rules for foodstuffs, & milk products in particular.

Although the onus is on the FBO to guarantee the safety of his primary (milk) production, the Veterinary Regulation Directorate (VRD) has the duty to carry out routine and random veterinary controls, and to guide dairy farmers in improving and maintaining their farm conditions up to international & EU standards. Enforcement actions are taken in cases of non-conformity or illegality in order to ensure the production of fresh, wholesome, nutritious & untainted raw milk for human consumption. 

The Hygiene package and other veterinary EU & local legislation ensure that all production animals on all registered dairy farms are identified & tested regularly for zoonotic & other conditions. Milk is only collected from healthy animals, who show no signs of disease, are fed appropriately, according to their stage of production, and are kept safely and with due attention given to their welfare.

The veterinary hygiene controls also investigate the use & misuse of Veterinary Medicinal Products (VMPs) on farm animals, in order to minimise cases of anti-microbial resistance in humans and animals.

Image of 4 cows taken from the front, while in their shed

All milking animals are officially identified & registered. Any animals undergoing veterinary treatment must be properly identified as such in order to avoid any possible contamination of the final product with authorized or unauthorized products/residues. Dairy establishments are further governed by:

  • Regulation (EC) 853/2004 (Specific rules on the hygiene of food of animal origin for food business operators);
  • Regulation (EC) 854/2004 (Specific rules for the organisation of official controls on products of animal origin intended for human consumption);
  • Regulation (EC) 178/2002 (General principles and requirements of food law, establishing the European Food Safety Authority and laying down procedures in matters of food safety);
  • Regulation (EC) 882/2004 (Official controls performed to ensure the verification of compliance with feed and food law, animal health and animal welfare rules);
  • Council Directive 96/23 (Measures to monitor certain substances and residues thereof in live animals and animal products);
  • Regulation (EC) 2073/2005 (Requirements on microbiological criteria for foodstuffs) and its amendments
  • Others: ​
  1. Regulation (EU) 2017/625 (Official controls and other official activities performed to ensure the application of food and feed law, rules on animal health and welfare, etc.);
  2. Regulation (EU) 1308/2013 (Establishing a common organisation of the markets in agricultural products) & Subsidiary Legislation 117.37 (Contractual relations in the milk and milk products sector regulations).

A cow shed with all the cows are aligned and eating 

Using the raw data of milk parameters obtained from the Milk Processing establishment, the Milk Hygiene Section is in a position to monitor & evaluate the quality of the raw milk delivered there, which in turn is linked to the health and wellbeing of Maltese and Gozitan herds. From 2010 till today, an increase in fat and protein content in raw milk from 2.4 to 3.0 and from 3.5 to 4.5 respectively, was noted. The plate count (bacterial contamination) has also been observed to fall below 100,000 (per ml), in line with the hygiene legal parameters of Council Regulation 853/2004. From 2006, another main quality success was also achieved by all bovine dairy farmers. The SCC went down to less than 400,000 (per ml). Some dairy farms indeed have achieved even lower counts. The Somatic Cell Count (SCC) is a main indicator of milk quality. The majority of these cells are leukocytes (white blood cells) - which become present in increasing numbers in milk usually as an immune response to a mastitis-causing pathogen. Essentially, a lower SCC indicates better animal health, as somatic cells originate only from inside the animal's udder. Furthermore, cows are typically producing 25-28kg of milk daily now, a relevant increase from 15-18kg in 2006. 

The Milk Hygiene Section actively ensures that fresh, natural & wholesome raw milk, free from deleterious agents, is delivered to the milk processing establishment& processed into dairy products for the consumers’ ultimate benefit.

Image of a milking parlour, where cows are milked every day

The cooler tank were all the milk is kept at a good temperature, until it is transported to the MDP