News Release
California Department of Food and Agriculture
Media Contacts:
Steve Lyle, Director of Public Affairs, (916) 654-0462,
Release #07-090
Tests show raw milk dairies would have met standard 75 percent of the time in last year
SACRAMENTO – The recent passing of AB 1735 establishes a new state standard for coliform bacteria in milk that is sold raw to consumers. Effective January 1, 2008, California’s two raw milk bottlers may have a count of no more than 10 coliform bacteria per milliliter in their final product, the same limit as pasteurized milk.

Most coliforms originate from the intestines of warm-blooded animals—including people—and are normally shed in the feces of healthy livestock, including dairy cattle. Some types of coliforms can cause serious illness in people: especially young children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems.   The detection of coliforms in milk does not necessarily mean that a disease-causing, or pathogenic, form of the bacteria is present. However, elevated coliform counts in milk and dairy products suggest unsanitary conditions exist during production, processing or packaging. Since most food-borne pathogens originate from fecal contamination, it is essential that strict sanitary practices be followed to minimize the risk to people consuming raw milk products.

While CDFA does not currently conduct regulatory tests for coliform counts in packaged raw milk—and   won’t until January 1, 2008—routine farm inspection samples of bulk milk collected during the last year show the two dairies would have met the new coliform standards 75 percent of the time. CDFA inspectors routinely help facilities with identifying problem areas of sanitation and cleanliness that might affect their ability to meet standards, and will be available to assist both raw milk bottlers in the state. 

Some of the methods raw milk dairies may employ to reduce bacteria counts include the following:

• Properly managing manure, bedding, housing and pastures to prevent cows   from arriving overly dirty at the milking parlor.
• Keeping cow udders and teats clean and dry
• Ensuring the hands of milkers are clean and dry
• Using industry best practices for cleanliness and sanitation to maintain equipment
• Providing sufficient refrigeration to ensure milk is properly stored and cooled at 45 degrees or below

All of these procedures are well-recognized and proven means to help control the bacterial quality of milk, including coliforms. Without the added protective step of pasteurization, cleanliness and sanitation are of increased importance to producing raw milk of safe and suitable quality for the consumer.   

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California Department of Food and Agriculture Office of Public Affairs
1220 N St., Ste. 214, Sacramento, CA 95814