Licensing helps monitor the food safety standards for raw milk produced in British Columbia. This task is accomplished through inspection and licensing of dairy farms and bulk tank milk graders, testing of milk, and providing technical support in addressing food safety issues.
Consumers can be sure they are getting high quality, safe and nutritious dairy products. Because of the extensive testing and quality checks unique to the dairy industry, milk that comes from the cow to the store shelf is fresh, good tasting and wholesome.
Quality Checks On Every B.C. Dairy Farm
The Milk Industry Act sets the requirements and standards for the industry. The Milk Industry Standards Regulation, outlined within the Act, provides the working details for all regulatory activities.
Every dairy farm is inspected and licenced before it can produce milk. To ensure approval, the farm must achieve an adequate inspection score and have adequate manure storage, housing and milk storage capacity for the number of milking cows on the operation.
The certified farm must meet the provincial standard of quality milk production and premises. This includes: all milking equipment, milking procedures, milking parlour and barn - everywhere the cows go must be kept clean and well maintained.
- All milk is stored and transported in stainless steel or glass which is carefully cleaned and sanitized after every use. Once milk leaves the cow it is kept cold at all times.
- Milk is transported to the dairy in stainless steel tanker trucks - these too are certified before they can carry milk and are inspected regularly.
- Every sample of milk taken at the farm is tested by a certified laboratory.
- Before the milk can be unloaded it is tested for antibiotic residues. If residues are found the entire shipment of milk is destroyed and the farmer who contaminated the load is held responsible for the entire load.
- The milk is also tested for temperature, acidity and flavour, before it is accepted. Bacteria, water contamination and somatic cell counts are tests that are done regularly. The presence of somatic cells is an indicator of animal health and milk quality. Other tests are carried out from time to time to ensure purity of product. Any infractions will result in penalties being applied on the monthly milk payment from the dairy processor. The money collected by this penalty program goes into the Dairy Products Promotion Fund.
- Milk is natural - nothing is added except Vitamins A and D, which is required by law.
- Milk is packaged within days, usually within 24 hours, of arriving at a dairy plant. Enzymatic spoilage would be noticed by the consumer if the milk was not fresh. All milk sold in Canada must be pasteurized, killing any harmful bacteria and ensuring it does not contaminate the product. Pasteurization also destroys spoilage organisms.
For more farm quality information, please contact the Animal Health Centre.
Bulk Tank Milk Grader Program
Before milk can be picked up, it must be inspected and graded by a licenced bulk tank milk grader. Every bulk tank milk grader must pass a written, field and odor exam, and is re-licenced every year.
It is the grader's responsibility to ensure the milk is cold (below 4 C), smells fresh and looks clean. He or she takes a milk sample from the farm tank at the time of every pick-up. This milk sample is then taken to a certified lab where it is tested.
Learn more about bulk tank milk grader licencing:
- Bulk Tank Milk Grader Handbook for British Columbia (PDF, 1.4MB)
- Bulk Tank Milk Grader Field Examination (PDF)
Please submit your completed bulk tank milk grader application to the Animal Health Centre.
3-A Sanitary Standards covers the sanitary aspects of automotive transportation tanks for milk and fluid milk products.