Dairy Products

Imports, Domestic Production, and Regulation of Ultra-filtered Milk Gao ID: GAO-01-326 March 5, 2001

The ultra-filtration process for milk, developed in the 1970s, removes most of the fluid components, leaving a high concentration of milk protein that allows cheese and other manufacturers to produce their products more efficiently. No specific data on amount of ultra-filtered milk imports exists because these imports fall under the broader U.S. Customs Service classification of milk protein concentrate. Exporters of milk protein concentrates face minimal U.S. import restrictions, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) believes the milk protein concentrates pose minimal safety risks. Similarly, there is little data on the amount and use of domestically produced ultra-filtered milk in U.S. cheese making plants. According to the Department of Agriculture and state sources, a total of 22 dairy plants nationwide and five large dairy farms in New Mexico and Texas produce ultra-filtered milk. The plants primarily produce and use ultra-filtered milk in the process of making cheese. The five farms transport their product primarily to cheese-making plants in the Midwest, where most is used to make standardized cheeses. FDA relies on its own inspections, and those it contracts with 37 states, to enforce its standards of identity regulations. In addition to these federally funded inspections, some states conduct their own inspections of cheese plants for compliance with standards of identity requirements under state law.

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