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What They Do

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Is milk safe in your refrigerator? Does the old expression "safe as milk" still hold true today? Is somebody keeping an eye on our dairy products?

Dairy inspectors have several important goals. One is to help ensure that milk is being produced in the first place. That might sound obvious, but there are many problems involved in an industry that relies on nature.

Dairy inspectors assist farmers in several important ways. They can help take samples from cows. Then they send the samples to suitable laboratories to have them checked.

Dairy inspector Susan Kernatz says that having good people skills and good interpersonal skills is very important to being an inspector.

"There's a lot of liaison work involved in being a dairy inspector," says Kernatz. Explaining government regulations can take patience and understanding.

Equipment used in a modern dairy needs to be checked regularly. An inspector must be familiar with all the equipment and be able to offer advice and information to the farmer.

The inspector must also make sure that the milk being produced tastes good. Sometimes people will be brought together to form a taste-testing panel to find out if milk tastes good or bad or just funny.

Inspectors must be alert to various pollutants in milk. These can range from bacteria to inhibitors (such as antibiotics) to extra water added by an unscrupulous dairy farmer.

Kernatz says her job has two parts. She has government regulations to enforce, and she also does extension work. That means Kernatz helps farmers analyze their milking equipment or the product itself.

Kernatz also trains bulk milk haulers in the safe handling of the product. She checks to make sure the milk in hauling trucks is safe. If there's even the tiniest amount of an antibiotic found in a truckload, the whole batch is destroyed.

Robert Bradley is a professor of food sciences. He says inspectors check dairy equipment for compliance with regulations. They must be familiar with the operation of pasteurization equipment.

"The job entails checking and validating pasteurization equipment and its operation. Inspectors also collect samples from plants and stores for regular analysis," says Bradley. "And they do spot checks in stores or in certain areas where there might be problems."

As far as policing the quality of a state's dairy products, Kernatz points out that inspectors don't determine the penalties.

"But if we get a call, we will go out, check the farm and put a stop-hold on that farm's milk until it's tested and made safe," she says. "The milk is not picked up until we are assured that the quality we demand is there."

Every state has different fines and penalties. Where Kernatz lives, for example, milk producers can be charged an overall penalty by month, and also for every day that the problem isn't corrected. Violators are charged per 200 gallons of milk, which can really add up on a large farm.

If dairy farmers aren't allowed to sell their milk, they aren't taking any money in to pay daily expenses. So it pays to make sure they never get into a bad situation.

Kernatz is quick to point out, though, that she has seen very few deliberate violations in the dairy industry. "Ninety-nine percent or more are very conscientious."

At a Glance

Check milk and dairy gear for quality and safety

  • There aren't a lot of inspectors, but they are important
  • Every state has different fines and penalties for those farmers who don't meet standards
  • You can start with a degree in food science or agriculture


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OCAP believes that financial literacy and understanding the financial aid process are critical aspects of college planning and student success. OCAP staff who work with students, parents, educators and community partners in the areas of personal finance education, state and federal financial aid, and student loan management do not provide financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice. This website and all information provided is for general educational purposes only, and is not intended to be construed as financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice.