Sep 1, 2005 12:00 PM
MILK haulers have fallen under the eye of federal authorities who are increasing security measures due to ongoing concerns about terrorist attacks in the United States.
However, milk haulers have long been in the spotlight to provide safe and secure transportation because of the nature of the product they handle and its consumption by the public.
These issues, and other related subjects, have prompted the International Milk Haulers Association (IMHA) to form a committee to find ways for transporters to be at the forefront as new federal security rules and standards are considered.
Another organization, The National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS), also addresses security issues. NCIMS is a cooperative program between the US Public Health Service/Food and Drug Administration, the states, and the dairy industry.
At the IMHA annual conference in April in Nashville, Tennessee, representatives from each group briefed the audience on their projects.
Safety and security
Trudy Barefoot, a Pennsylvania milk hauler and IMHA committee member; Mary Leibham, a Texas milk hauler and IMHA committee member; and Chris Thompson, chairman of the NCIMS Hauling Procedures Committee, agreed that participation is essential to monitor safety and security issues for milk transporters.
“It's pointless if people aren't active,” Barefoot said.
In addition to security issues, Barefoot listed legislation being considered that impacts weight laws, as well as highway and excise taxes, that would have to be addressed by milk haulers.
She also noted that the expertise learned by milk haulers over the years should be presented to legislators for them to consider as part of the legislative process.
For example, she said that when federal agencies considered food security, they overlooked the fact that few dairy farms have any security measures in effect. That puts the product at risk before the transporter arrives to load, no matter what precautions the carrier may have taken.
She also said that security becomes an issue when drivers park tank trailers at their homes while off duty, another situation that should be addressed.
Another problem lies in the use of product seals. Some may lose their identification information by being bleached by the sun during transportation while others may be accidentally broken, Barefoot said.
In any case, not only is security breached, but the transporter is faced with the expense of the loss when the load is turned down.
As these and other problems become more apparent, haulers can expect new regulations to be enacted and should be prepared to lobby their representatives for workable solutions, Leibham emphasized.
“Get to know your members of Congress,” said Leibham. “They need to know you.”
Thompson pointed out that NCIMS examines many issues and standards milk haulers face in their operations. The organization is made up of persons involved in the dairy industry, including dairy farmers, processing plant personnel, inspectors, lawmakers, law enforcement officers, academic researchers, and consumers.
NCIMS meets biennially in odd-numbered years with the next conference scheduled May 5-10, 2007, at the Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah. He urged IMHA members to take part.
The NCIMS members deliberate proposals submitted by various individuals from federal, state, and local regulatory agencies, as well as milk producers, processors, consumers, and others who have an interest in dairy product safety. Subjects in addition to security include procedures for hauling milk, standards for equipment, and recommended practices for tank cleaning.
There is some debate among haulers and processors about the effectiveness of clean-in-place (CIP) systems that are installed in many of the milk tank trailers. Some within the industry are calling for an industry-wide standardization of the equipment.
The group also is looking into ways to identify tank cleaning facilities and their locations as an assistance to companies that require wash services. (Bulk Transporter compiles an annual Tank Cleaning Directory for its readers that is published in the March issue.)
In addition, research is underway to study carbon dioxide blanketing in the tank trailer to stabilize microbe levels in the milk. Other topics take a look at ill employees, and when they can be allowed to work around foodgrade products.
Action of NCIMS delegates is not final as the Food and Drug Administration has concurrence/non-concurrence privileges. FDA has 90 days to respond after receiving the transcript of the delegates' actions at the conference. The NCIMS executive board then has 30 days from the time of FDA's response to the proposals that were passed to meet with FDA and discuss their response.
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