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By Thippawan Prinyasiri
Ph.D., Director of The Food and Drug Administration,
Ministry of Public Health
In the current global trends, foods are gradedto contribute to the development for increasing competitiveness of manufacturers in the global market. Recently, Thai Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under Ministry of Public Health have initiatively set the criteria of “premium” standard tofurther enhance the quality of food products including milk. Thestandard of the milk production throughout the wholesupply chain is upgraded to add value to dairy products in Thailand, under the policy and strategy of food quality and food safety by the Committee of the National Food Thailand. This will allow people to drink quality milk with safety and also encourage Thai milk industry to be competitive and ready when stepping into the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and the world market.
Accordingly, foods and the consumer productshave been classified into 2 grades which are standard and premium. The standard grade is the product with normal quality with reasonable price while the premium grade is the high quality product with the higher price. This premium concept is the policy of the Ministry of Public Healthaiming to increase the opportunity of Thai manufacturers to market more product varieties and to better servedemands of specific consumer group. By the way, the standard products which prices are controlled by government, consumers will be able to find it in normal price in regular market. The Ministry of Public Health No. 256 (dairy cattle) hasalready set minimum standards of milk which are proteinnot less than 2.8 percent by weight. And for the full cream milk, its solid non-fat content must not be less than 8.25 percent by weight and the lipid (fat) must not be less than 3.2 percent by weight. These requirements are basic criteria to ensure that consumers can get the quality, valuable and useful products, and the manufacturers are required to produce all milk to meet the standards needed for consumers.
The origin of the criteria for a "premium" on the label.
Labeling is one of the channelswhich manufacturers use to communicate to consumers to know how good and what quality of their products are. There is no criteria to approve what message can be posted on label, when to use, and what kinds of foods can be allowed to use, since the premium character of each food is different. In the past, Thai FDA has considered based on guidelines from any other relevant government agency such as Thai Industrial Standards Institute (TISI.) In order to support the expansion of the food market which is growing rapidly for both domestic and foreign, we need to have the clear criteria to justify and use as guidelines for approval. Thus, Thai FDA has set premium standard of food and milk to communicate to everyone to know what and how to use premium word.
In food industry, there are many levels of quality products. Goods received attention now is the high-quality product also known as premium product. The definition of premium food is the food that has a special feature comparing to general food or the other food in the same category in term of better quality and more valuable. Any food which is needed to use “premium” on label has to follow the guideline and Ministry of Public Health (MoH) Notification. There are 2 MoHNotification which set criteria for Premium Milk, details are as follows:
1. MoH Notification for using premium word on food labeling: This is the criteria for general foods which need to use premium word on food labeling
2. MoH Notification for using premium word on milk labeling: This is the criteria for full cream milk which need to use premium word on labeling
The objectives of these 2 notifications are to support the development and enrichment of milk product, and also to build consumers’ confidence in the products as well.
Same Milk, different quality
The principle of the premium milk notification is to control all supply chain or called From Farm to Table in order to create consumers’ confidence in the safety, quality and taste of milk. The criteria which arehas set for premium milk are:
• Somatic cells (Somatic Cell Count) or white blood cells volume must be less than 300,000 cells/ml. This specified level can tell us about how healthier cow is. If the somatic cell volume exceeds300,000 cells/ml., there is a risk for the cow todevelop mastitis disease. This notification is the first attempt to urge farmers to take care of the milk production cycle from the beginning since food quality has to be maintained from upstream. Besides somatic cell volume can tell the cow’s health condition, somatic cell itself can release enzymes to kill bacteria in milk and cause the better flavor of the milk. Many peoplehave wonderedwhy milk from abroad is more delicious, the reason is a great management of milk on farms, cow’s health, and a better environment can makes milk better quality and taste.
• Cold Chain System (Cool Chain) is a management process to maintain product quality from the manufacturer to the buyers. The temperature must be proper and cold enough to maintain quality throughout the storage. As soon as coming from cow, Milk has to be Immediately cooled at 4 ° C and then processed and stored at the right temperature until it reaches the consumer.
• Total microbial count (Standard Plate Count) is another factor that affects the quality. And flavor of milk in dairy premium specified time period not exceeding 200,000 colonies per ml. The number of bacteria in raw milk from farm to factory can indicate the level of management and environmental care. If the milk was left at room temperature for a long time, microorganisms will be increasing rapidly which reduce delicious aroma and flavor. It is necessary to cool milk when coming from cow immediately because microbial grow in milk as well. Therefore, there must be temperature control for milk product. It is stated by law that milk must be kept and sold at a temperature not exceeding 8 ° C. Even though the consumers may not know about the microbial threshold above (the law is set for manufacturers practices), they will feel the taste of fresh milk. To be known as the premium milk would help build consumers’ confidence in the safety of dairy products, ensures that consumers get milk from a healthy cow, and believe that entrepreneurs have produced milk with care in every step with a great responsibility to produce quality product.
Besides, Thai FDA also set up the percentage of milk solid content in milk. For the standard milk, protein must not be less than 2.8% by weight. Since the premium milk has to be better and has richer taste, protein in premium milk is set to be not less than 3.1% by weight. This protein content is derived from rich cattle feeding withsource of nitrogen protein coming from concentrates and roughage feeds. When cows eat good food, they give milk which is also a good composition. The notification of premium milk also set fat level not to be less than 4.0 percent by weight while the standard milk notification set fat level not to be less than 3.2 percent by weight. Accordingly, the standard milk taste more liquid rather than the premium whilefat concentration in premium milk give consumers creamy texture in the mouth.
The government has adopted the premium milk policyin order to raise the standards of development of the whole supply chain of milk production. Those benefits from development are:
Consumers can get quality products, safe and nutritious. It is certain that the premium milk price would be higher than standard milk due to high cost. The premium milk will be another alternative for consumers to make choices.
Producers can raise the level of competition of producers in the market including increasing responsibilities to control quality from farm to table. They have to take good care of cow by investing in good cattle feeding. They must maintain the cold temperature throughout the chain and control higher nutritional value of milk. The good management of the center for raw milk collection must be maintained since they cannot mix standard milk with premium milk due to their different milk solid content and the confidence of having the traceability system for premium milk.
Agriculturists as part of the farm and feed, have to pay attention to quality. When they take good care of cows, they will get good quality milk with the good pay. This will be incentives to them to improve the standard of cattle and have good farm management.
Government will take care of both upstream at regulatory standards and downstream at the price mechanism. This is important because to come out as a premium or high quality product, it requireshigh investment in many areas, for example, we need to invest in good quality of cattle feedings to get high protein and we need to invest in tools, equipment and more to get temperature control throughout the chain.Since the cost increase, the final price will be higher than standard milk. This mechanism would be proportional to the price of rising costs.
All of these factors are important and impact to the government policy to achieve the objective of improving the quality of the food and drive Thailand feeding milk to be competitive in the global market.
Milks are different in quality. Good quality milk must come from good quality ingredients with great care on every step from upstream to downstream (From Farm to Table). Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Ministry of Health, has initiatively set the premium standard to further enhance the quality of the food and milk and to develop standard of milk production throughout the chain to gain value added to dairy products in Thailand. This will support Thai people to have a chance to drink good quality, safe, nutritious and delicious milk. This is also to support Thailand to compete in milk industry when stepping into the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and the world market. By setting quality standards relating to milk cows, including the amount of somatic cells (Somatic Cell Count), temperature control (Cool Chain), total plate count (Standard Plate Count) and the criteria in premium milk, this can provide reasonable assurance of safety, quality, taste and nutritional value of milk product.