2019

KEEPING CURRENT

FOOD SAFETY

All the Right Moo-ves?

States grapple with raw milk controversy
as more consumers seek unpasteurized dairy

A Wisconsin farmer’s acquittal last month on charges related to selling unpasteurized milk and cheese has stirred up debate on the production and distribution of raw milk throughout the United States and how some states are trying to handle the growing consumer demand for the dairy product.

Most mainstream dairies, food safety advocates and public health officials have long contended raw milk is unsafe and will make people sick because it can contain harmful bacteria. Raw milk advocates, on the other hand, say the pasteurization process wipes out many beneficial nutrients raw milk carries. Some raw milk advocates simply prefer its taste over that of pasteurized milk.

Of the outbreaks related to tainted dairy product from 1993-2006, 75% occurred in 21 states that permitted the sale of nonpasteurized products, a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report discovered. More recent examples of tainted dairy outbreaks include:

  • Minnesota officials announced in May that 25 people were sickened in an outbreak of salmonella from unpasteurized cheese. Minnesota law permits raw milk sales on the farm where the milk was produced.
  • Pennsylvania officials confirmed in early June six cases of Campylobacter infection in people who had consumed milk from a facility that produces raw milk. The same facility was cited as the source of a Campylobacter outbreak in early 2012 that sickened 78 people in four states.

"Nonpasteurized products caused a disproportionate number of outbreaks and outbreak-associated illnesses," the report said. "States that restricted sale of nonpasteurized products had fewer outbreaks and illnesses."

Raw milk demand

About 30 states already allow raw milk sales for human consumption, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Because the FDA does not regulate raw milk, it can be sold only in the state where it was produced, not across state lines or internationally.

Clearly, more U.S. consumers are demanding the product be on store shelves. No government agency or group tracks raw milk sales nationwide, but five years ago it was reported in Washington state that the number of dairies selling raw milk to the public grew from six to 22 in two years. In Massachusetts, the number of dairies selling raw milk more than doubled to 24 in five years, even as the overall number of dairies declined.

In recent months, more state lawmakers throughout the United States have been trying to find ways to accommodate the consumer demand for raw milk:

  • In Delaware, lawmakers introduced a bill last month to end the state’s ban on the sale of raw milk.
  • In Maine, the state senate approved a bill last month that would allow farms to sell small quantities of raw milk directly to consumers without getting a license, as long as the milk is clearly labeled.
  • In North Dakota, the state’s legislature earlier this year made it legal for people to drink raw milk if they have a registered purchase of a share in a dairy cow.
  • In Massachusetts, lawmakers began considering legislation last month to expand the access of raw milk beyond the farm to buying clubs and the farmers’ off-premise locations, such as farm stands and stores.

"I’d love to be able to sell raw milk," said Albert "Chip" Hager, a Massachussetts dairy farmer. "I have no doubt that it would be popular. People are looking for more and more all-natural, unprocessed products, and raw milk is unprocessed. There are a lot of people who are making yogurt and cheese, and they need raw milk to make it."

Finding compromise?

Back in Wisconsin, lawmakers and experts say both sides of the controversy must work together to help make raw milk legal in the state.

"A plan is needed to get that done," said Peter Carstensen, a law professor at the University of Wisconsin (UW)-Madison and an expert on agricultural market regulation. "And the plan you have to start with is answering the question of how do you protect the general public from the dangers of raw milk while allowing reasonable access to those who really understand the risks but want the perceived benefits."

There’s talk of a state bill designed to increase accessibility to raw milk from producers who follow safety guidelines adopted by the state. Others think community-based buyers clubs, similar to what the recently acquitted Wisconsin farmer operated, are the way to go.

"I think there’s a lot to be said for food systems that are community-based and are local," said Liz Reitzig, the founder of the Farm Food Freedom Coalition. "That’s ultimately where the prosperity comes from. When you have these local farmers who are feeding their local communities, the money stays in the communities and it really revitalizes the local economies. There’s so much potential there."

Some raw-milk opponents want no part of a compromise. The raw milk debate comes down to safety, and they will not waver on that point.

"It’s impossible to make an unsafe product safe," said Shawn Pfaff, spokesman for the Wisconsin Safe Milk Coalition, an industry lobbying group opposed to raw milk sales. "We strongly urge lawmakers to keep it illegal to sell raw milk in Wisconsin to protect the state’s $27 billion dairy industry and the public health of its residents."

Pam Ruegg, a UW-Madison veterinarian and expert on milk quality and safety, said "people will get sick from drinking raw milk. It’s unpredictable and there will be some tragedies" if it’s legalized.

Perhaps people should have the freedom to drink raw milk if they choose to, she suggested, but there might be problems giving raw milk to children or others for whom they make decisions. The FDA says bacteria in raw milk can be especially dangerous to people with weakened immune systems, older adults, pregnant women and children.

"We all know getting on a motorcycle without a helmet has risks, and some people choose to do that," she said. "But if you see somebody on a motorcycle with a 2-year-old strapped on their back without a helmet, you’d say, ‘Who would let them do that?’ I think that’s similar with raw milk."

Mark Edmund, associate editor

Bibliography


Who’s Who in Q

NAME: Tony Bruno.

RESIDENCE: Round Rock, TX.

EDUCATION: Attended Windward Community College in Kaneohe, HI.

CURRENT JOB: Quality technician for TECO-Westinghouse Motor Co. in Round Rock. Bruno leads the inspection team, which includes two technicians and four inspectors, and coordinates inspection activities across all product lines.

INTRODUCTION TO QUALITY: Bruno started in tool and die maintenance in the early 1980s. After he was laid off in 1985, he moved to the field of quality. At the time, he only knew how to read blueprints and how to use a few hand tools. From there, he learned all he could about using the capability maturity model, as well as surface plate setups.

PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE: Bruno has worked many inspection and technician positions, which has contributed to the skills he has as a quality technician.

ASQ ACTIVITIES: A senior ASQ member, Bruno is also a member of the Inspection Division and attends Section 1414 meetings in Austin, TX. He is an ASQ-certified quality engineer, auditor, technician, calibration technician and inspector.

OTHER ACTIVITIES: Bruno has been a private pilot since 1992.

RECENT AWARDS: He was recently awarded the 2013 ASQ Inspection Division International Inspector of the Year.

PERSONAL: Married to his wife, Nancy, for 27 years. They have two grown children and two grandchildren.

FAVORITE WAYS TO RELAX: Traveling, playing golf, woodworking projects and water sports.

QUALITY QUOTE: Quality isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.


ASQ News

RN RECEIVES HEALTHCARE AWARD Colleen O’Brien, a registered nurse with Bellin Health System in Green Bay, WI, has been awarded the Healthcare Division’s $2,000 Nightingale Scholarship for demonstrating "an outstanding commitment to pursuing quality improvement in the healthcare field." O’Brien received the award at the ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement in May.

JOINT CONFERENCE PLANNED The Audit and Quality Management Divisions will hold their joint conference Oct. 10-11 in Tucson, AZ. The registration fee for the two-day event is $895. The fee includes meals and access to 40 different sessions and five keynote speakers. For more information, visit www.2013auditconference.com.

ASQ MENA LOCATION OPENS ASQ has opened its newest international office in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The office will serve the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, including Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malta, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, West Bank, Gaza and Yemen. The MENA region has more than 1,000 ASQ members. For more information, visit www.asqmena.org.

CALL CENTER EXCELLENCE ASQ’s call center was recently named one of the top 100 in North America by BenchmarkPortal based on ASQ’s performance compared to industry peers. ASQ, which employs 24 customer service representatives, was named to the top 100 in the small centers category. For more information about the achievement, visit www.asq.org/media-room/press-releases/2013/20130530-top-call-center.html.


ASQ Journal Spotlight

Every month, QP highlights an open-access article from one of ASQ’s seven other journals. This month, make sure you read "Control Charts Based on the Exponential Distribution: Adapting Runs Rules for the t Chart," which appeared in April-June edition of Quality Engineering.

The article, written by Eduardo Santiago and Joel Smith, presents a probabilistic-based method to construct a t chart to monitor the stability of a process.

To access the article, click on the "Current Issue" link on Quality Engineering’s website: http://asq.org/pub/qe. From there, you also can find a link to information about subscribing to the quarterly publication.


ENGINEERING

U.S. Infrastructure Scores
D+ by Engineering Group

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has given the United States’ infrastructure an overall grade of D+, showing slight progress from the D it received from ASCE in its last report card four years ago. It’s also the first time the overall grade rose since the organization began issuing report cards in 1998.

To raise the grades and get the U.S. infrastructure to an acceptable level, a total investment of $3.6 trillion is needed by 2020 across the entire 16 sectors, the report concludes. Currently, only about $2 trillion in infrastructure spending is projected.

"The reason why we want to make improvements to our infrastructure is not just simply to improve the grade," said Gregory E. DiLoreto, ASCE’s president. "Investment in our infrastructure will help grow our economy; it will create jobs and improve our quality of life. It means being able to get to work easier without sitting in traffic all day long; and continuing to enjoy safe, clean and reliable drinking water anywhere in the country; and having an electrical transmission grid with fewer or no blackouts."

Individual grades were given in the categories of aviation, bridges, dams, drinking water, energy, hazardous waste, inland waterways, levees, ports, public parks and recreation, rail, roads, schools, solid waste, transit and wastewater. Final grades were assigned based on capacity to meet future demand, condition, funding, future needs, operation and maintenance, public safety, resilience and innovation.

To access the report card and a breakdown by state, visit www.infrastructurereportcard.org.


Word to the Wise

To educate newcomers and refresh practitioners and professionals, QP occasionally features a quality term and definition:

Feeder lines

A series of special assembly lines that allow assemblers to perform preassembly tasks off the main production line. Performing certain processes off the main production line means fewer parts in the main assembly area, the availability of service-ready components and assemblies in the main production area, improved quality and less lead time to build a product.

Source:

"Quality Glossary," Quality Progress, June 2007, p. 46.


Date in Quality History

QP occasionally looks back on a person or event that made a difference in the history of quality.

July 22, 1922

Spencer Hutchens Jr., a former ASQ president and the namesake for ASQ’s social responsibility medal, was born on this date.

Hutchens started his professional career in 1948, continuing his service to the U.S. government. He worked as a radar inspector at the U.S. Army Signal Corp, and later he served as director of inspection for the U.S. western region. After 30 years of government work, Hutchens retired from the public sector in 1977.

A short time later, he joined the Intertek Group as a senior vice president and helped establish the business as one of the leading inspection, product testing and certification companies in the world. He retired from Intertek on two separate occasions but still maintained his office at its Los Angeles location until six months ago.

Hutchens joined ASQ in 1950 and soon became very active in the society’s activities. He served as ASQ president in 1988 and became chairman the following year. Hutchens was given ASQ’s Distinguished Service Medal in 2002. Earlier this year, he was awarded ASQ’s Lancaster Medal for his lifetime contributions to the international quality community. He also received the C. Jackson Grayson Distinguished Quality Pioneer Medal from the American Productivity and Quality Center.

He died in 2010 after a lengthy illness.


By the Numbers

59

The number of members of the American Statistical Association recently selected as fellows. Members achieve this status by demonstrating outstanding professional contributions to and leadership in the field of statistical science. The new fellows will be awarded certificates on Aug. 6 at the annual joint statistical meetings in Montreal. To see a list of the new fellows, visit www.amstat.org/newsroom/pressreleases/2013asafellows.pdf.


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