Regulating Sampling and Testing under the Raw Goat Milk Quality Program
Goat milk sample collection, transport, storage and testing all have the potential to affect quality results. That's why various checks and balances have been set up throughout the milk sampling system to ensure the chain of custody is maintained and that samples arrive at the laboratory in acceptable condition.
Bulk Tank Milk Graders (BTMGs), more commonly referred to as "drivers", have been trained and certified for their duties associated with collection of milk at the farm including proper collection and storage of milk samples. This includes ensuring that a representative sample of raw milk is carefully collected from each individual bulk tank, accurately recorded and delivered to a depot under refrigerated conditions.
Requirements for taking and transporting milk samples
Delivery of samples to the laboratory
Goat milk marketers have arrangements with private couriers to transport sample coolers to University of Guelph's Agriculture and Food Laboratory. When samples arrive at the lab, temperature readings from the I-buttons are downloaded and checked by lab technicians to verify that samples have been maintained between 1° and 4°C. Lab staff also check the temperature of the water blank vial. Quality testing is not performed if sample temperatures have, at any time, been over 4°C.
Testing by an accredited laboratory
University of Guelph's Agriculture and Food Laboratory (AFL) is an accredited lab, meaning that it must take extra steps to ensure the accuracy and repeatability of test results. This includes submitting to routine third party audits. Sample handling and test methods and procedures are documented and validated by trained and experienced technicians. Only goat milk samples that are less than 48 hours old from point of collection at the farm, and maintained between 1 and 4°C, can be tested for bacteria at the laboratory. Samples that are older than 48 hours, or that have not been kept cold, are not tested since their results may no longer accurately reflect the quality of the milk that was in the bulk tank.
Monthly testing of goat milk producer samples is conducted by the Dairy Food Safety Program of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food and Ministry of Rural Affairs at the University of Guelph's AFL. Samples are tested for bacteria levels (using the bactoscan), the presence of inhibitors (such as antibiotics), somatic cells and abnormalities (such as added water).
Reporting of Results
Sample test results are electronically transferred to the Dairy Food Safety Program and once a month reports are mailed out to producers. Test results are also tracked and reviewed for trends. Individual producers experiencing on-going quality problems are identified and offered assistance in detecting problems. Province-wide data is also monitored to detect trends in milk quality. Goat milk brokers may also conduct supplementary sample testing to proactively detect problems and promote high milk quality standards.
The integrity of the goat milk sampling system rests in the hands of producers, BTMGs, temperature recording technology and qualified lab technicians. All are doing their part to ensure high-quality goat milk and fair compensation for producers.
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