Artisan Dairy Producers’ Food
How to successfully reach
When the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law 8 years ago, both regulators and manufactur- ers knew putting it into practice would take time and a whole lot of effort.
Larger companies were asked to lead the way and reach
compliance back in 2016.
As they navigated FSMA regulations, the bigger dairy
processors began to recognize the challenge that new
rules might pose for artisans who lack the support of
dedicated food safety staff (see “Challenges Encountered
by Artisan Dairy Producers,” p. 15). They also recognized that food safety issues among smaller producers
could affect the reputation of the entire industry.
To address this potential pitfall, a group of processors directed the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association
(WCMA) to find a way to help, and—together with the
Center for Dairy Research (CDR)—earned a grant from
the U.S. Department of Agriculture–National Institute
of Food and Agriculture to provide FSMA training via a
program dubbed the Artisan Dairy Producer Food Safety
Initiative. For this program, educators were needed to
work shoulder to shoulder with artisan dairy plants.
That’s where we came in.
With nearly 90 years of combined dairy industry
experience and several food safety certifications on
our résumés, we were asked by WCMA and CDR to
serve as the program’s food safety educators. Our goals
were clear: help artisans meet their FSMA compliance
deadline of September 2018 and improve food safety
practices across the industry. We developed a number of
tools to help this growing population of
Over the past 2 years, we’ve worked
with more than 80 dairy processors in
Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, pro-
viding FSMA workshops, on-call as-
sistance, and dozens of template proce-
dures and documentation forms, which
are available now on WisCheeseMakers.
org. Some of the most common ques-
tions we get are the following:
• In my plant, how can I provide
improved barrier control between
zones for raw, in-process, and fin-
• What is the difference between a
Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) food safety
plan and a FSMA Preventive Controls food safety plan?
• If I have an HACCP plan, is that
sufficient for FSMA?
• What resources are available to assist
with developing and implementing a
cleaning and sanitation plan? (I currently purchase cleaners from retail
farm supply stores.)
• How do I conduct a mock recall?
• Should I test my finished product? If
so, for what microorganisms?
We’ve also provided on-site consulta-
tions at more than 70 manufacturing
plants. Some of those plants have 50
employees. Some have just a few or
one employee. Some are making many
varieties of cheese for sale around the
country, whereas others are selling only
a couple of kinds at a farmers market.
Some are making ice cream and/or bot-
tling fluid milk products. Some have
generations of processing experience,
while others are just getting started.
However operations may vary, one
attribute is universally shared: Dairy
processors grasp the gravity of food
safety in our industry. Despite competing demands on their time—and their
By Jim Mueller and Larry Bell