Guaranteeing product safety

Food safety management starts on the farm before continuing in factories and during transportation. It is then maintained in stores and consumers’ homes.


Maintaining the positive image of dairy products

The slightest food safety issue can have a negative impact on the entire dairy industry. Dairy professionals therefore work together to manage the safety of dairy products.

Food safety management

Milk safety is highly regulated at both the French and European levels. A whole raft of measures define the best practices to adopt for limiting the risks and offering safe dairy products.

Milk is a fragile substance that can be contaminated at any time by microbial or chemical agents present in the farm or factory environment. The safety of milk and milk products is closely linked to milk farming and production conditions, hygiene measures in the factory and during transportation, and storage in shops and consumers’ homes.

  • Milk payments based on quality on the farm

    Milk needs to meet precise composition criteria (fat and protein content), as well as strict safety criteria (germs and cells below a maximum limit). In addition, it should not contain any traces of antibiotics.

    To determine milk quality, samples are taken at each collection and analysed in interprofessional laboratories.

    The lab results lead to a bonus for the farmer if the milk exceeds quality standards or a penalty if it fails to reach them.

  • A strict regulatory framework

    Very early in the 1990s, Europe developed a battery of hygiene rules to guarantee the safety of dairy products.

    European regulation known as the “hygiene package” came into force on 1 January 2006. This regulation includes a number of legislative texts, introducing a single transparent policy for food hygiene and safety in all European Union countries.

    All stakeholders are concerned, from the farm and factories to distributors of dairy products.

  • Performance obligation but choice of means

    Farmers are responsible for the safety and compliance of their products and must implement suitable management measures to guarantee the safety of food sold on the market. Dairy professionals’ main obligations are as follows:


    • To respect good hygiene practices, both general and specific to the dairy sector
    • During processing, to develop procedures based on the principles of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP)


    • To set up a traceability system
    • To implement product recall and withdrawal procedures
    • To use the Guides to Good Hygiene Practices


Guides to Good Hygiene Practices

Guide to good hygiene practices for dairy farmers

In farming, the Guide des bonnes pratiques d’hygiène en élevage de gros bovins, veaux de boucherie, ovins, caprins [guide to good hygiene practices for rearing adult bovines, veal calves, sheep and goats helps dairy farmers to manage their hygiene practices and comply with regulation.

Developed by the National Livestock Confederation (Confédération Nationale de l’Elevage) and the French Livestock Institute (Institut de l’Elevage), the guide addresses farms with products (milk and/or meat) that are wholly or partially intended for human consumption without being processed on site.

This guide complements the voluntary approach taken by cattle farmers through the Charter of Good Agricultural Practices.

Guide to good hygiene practices for farm producers

The Guide des bonnes pratiques d’hygiène pour les producteurs fermiers [guide to good hygiene practices for farm producers is aimed at producers of dairy products and farmhouse cheese.

Written by farming professionals, it is a tool to help farmers formalize their practices and comply with hygiene regulation.


Guide to good hygiene practices for processors

The Guide des bonnes pratiques d’hygiène pour la collecte du lait cru et les fabrications de produits laitiers [guide to good hygiene practices for collecting raw milk and manufacturing dairy products is aimed at companies that collect raw milk and/or are involved in dairy product manufacturing.

It was written by the French Association of Dairy Processors (ATLA), with the support of Actalia, a technical institute for milk and dairy products.

This guide provides guidelines for implementing good hygiene practices in milk collection and processing.

Safety at every step

On the farm
  • Excellent quality milk
  • Healthy, well-fed animals
  • Spotless hygiene practices during milking and in farm buildings
Safety procedures
  • Charter of Good Agricultural Practices
  • Guide to good hygiene practices for adult bovines, veal calves, sheep and goats
  • Health register for each cow, completed by the farmer – health report
  • Animal health monitoring by veterinarians
  • Milk quality controls
  • Milk storage in refrigerated tanks
Action in the event of problems
  • If a contagious disease is detected, the entire herd is isolated from the collection and, if necessary, slaughtered.
  • If an animal presents symptoms of any disease that is transmissible to humans, it is isolated from the herd and its milk is no longer collected.
Collection and transportation

Avoid milk contamination during collection, transportation and storage

Safety procedures
  • Transporting milk in lorries enabling milk to be kept refrigerated
  • Analysing milk upon arrival at the factory
  • Storage in 6°C tanks at the factory
Action in the event of a problem
  • If the milk does not meet quality criteria, payment penalties are applied to the farmer.
  • If a farmer supplies milk that does not meet the quality criteria on several occasions, that farmer is removed from the collection route.
  • In the event of milk being contaminated by antibiotics, the tank is destroyed entirely (concerns only 0.03% of milk collected in France).
At the factory
  • Avoid contamination (microbiological, chemical or physical) during milk processing
  • Produce healthy, safe dairy products
Safety procedures
  • Introduction of a health management plan: guides to good hygiene practices, HACCP plan, traceability, numerous controls and analyses, and management of non-compliant products.
  • Official controls: approval and verification of the health management plan
  • Official certification of the factory
Action in the event of a problem
  • In the event of non-compliance, implementation of a corrective action plan
  • Product recall and withdrawal
In the store

Provide healthy, safe and good dairy products

Safety procedures
  • Manage the cold chain: products kept constantly refrigerated
  • Good hygiene practices: e.g. the use of gloves to handle and cut cheese
  • Product inspections
  • Supplier quality audits
If non-compliance is identified

Si une non-conformité est identifiée

  • Withdrawal of products from depots and sales outlets
  • Product recall (if necessary in the event of serious non-compliance)
In the consumer’s home

Consume healthy, safe dairy products that remain high-quality

Safety procedures
  • Respect good hygiene practices
  • Comply with instructions printed on packaging (best before dates, storage temperature, etc.)
Action in the event of a problem
  • Contact the manufacturer using the Freephone number printed on the packaging
  • Consult your doctor in the event of illness
A la ferme
La collecte
A l'usine
En magasin
Chez vous

Support from CNIEL

Action addressing four key issues

  • Managing microbiological risks

    This means avoiding a scenario where the micro-organisms present in milk alter the physical and bacteriological features of milk. This risk management requires in-depth knowledge of all these micro-organisms.

    If information is lacking, CNIEL can carry out research. For example, CNIEL has commissioned several research programmes on pathological bacteria such as Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus and STEC (pathogenic Escherichia coli), in order to identify the sources of contamination and understand their growth in cheese.

    CNIEL develops these research programmes in collaboration with French public research institutes (INRA, Institut Pasteur and veterinarian schools) and technical centres (Institut de l’Elevage and Actalia Produits Laitiers).

  • Managing the risks of chemical contaminants

    Chemical contaminants are undesirable substances that can come from environmental pollution or poorly managed processing procedures; e.g. the combustion of certain substances, released into the atmosphere in smoke, contaminates soil and the grass consumed by cows, and therefore milk.

    CNIEL carries out active monitoring on these topics and shares its knowledge with the industry to enable stakeholders to implement research or preventative action.


  • Managing animal health risks

    Animal health is another critical theme for the dairy industry. Certain bovine diseases can impact the quality of milk or its collection.

    Here too, CNIEL plays an important role in sharing knowledge and recommendations with processors and farmers: What to do in the event of an alert on the farm? Which conduct to follow in the event of a contaminated product?


  • Quantitative risk assessment (QRA)

    Quantitative risk assessment (QRA) is an approach recommended by health authorities. To estimate the level of contamination by a pathogen at the different stages of a product’s lifecycle, QRA uses two types of information:

    • Numerous data collected by dairy companies across the production chain: microbiological data on the milk, the product being processed, the finished product, technological parameters, etc.
    • An increasingly precise knowledge of the behaviour of bacteria, depending on the ambient physical and chemical conditions.

    To help manufacturers with this risk assessment approach, CNIEL has been developing QRA tools in partnership with Actalia Produits Laitiers since 2003. There are many fields of application; e.g. to determine the life of a product.

    Among the pathogenic bacteria being studied are, for example, Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella and Escherichia coli. The application of QRA to other potentially pathogenic germs is planned.


Strategic partnerships

Bringing together quality managers from dairy groups

Choreh Farrokh, Head of Food Safety Unit, CNIEL, coordinates the Food Safety Commission. Every three months, this commission brings together quality directors from major dairy groups and SMEs.

The objective is to report on safety problems experienced in the field in order to alert other members and decide on a shared plan of action; e.g. documentary research or a new research project.

The benefits are shared costs and shared knowledge.

Working with scientific institutes

CNIEL works with scientific partners to further the industry’s knowledge of topics that are still relatively unknown.

It is involved in more than 50 research projects supported by CNIEL funds, as well as French and European public funds.

CNIEL has developed a strong partnership with academic research: INRA, INSERM, Institut Pasteur and technical institutes (Institut de l’Elevage and Actalia Produits Laiters).