Milk has some unique characteristics in terms of its composition and its potential to be transformed in various ways, enabling it to serve as the basis for numerous dairy products. However milk is also a vulnerable product, that must be handled with the greatest care to maintain its quality. The dairy industry in the Netherlands has long sought to guarantee this quality from the cow to the dairy factory. Every delivery of milk from the farm to the factory is thoroughly checked for purity and freshness using analytical and microbiological tests.
Preventive measures are also taken so that the milk is not infected or polluted during the production process and during transport to the factory. As part of this preventive strategy, requirements have been set for the raw materials, auxiliary materials and equipment that are important for the production of milk. This involves monitoring of water, animal feeds, veterinary drugs and the chemicals used in cleaning.
For a long time the pollution of milk with undesirable substances has been a specific area of concern. Knowledge of the behaviour of possible pollutants provides the basis for quality control. Some substances that may be found in a cow’s feed or that are used as medication do not enter the milk, or do so in only minute quantities. These are then less of a threat. Such substances include the heavy metals, as demonstrated by the sampling and testing that has already been under way for a considerable time.
This has shown that the levels of heavy metals in milk are very low. Other residues or contaminants, including diverse persistent (poorly degradable) environmental pollutants can actually accumulate in milk fat. As a result of adequate measures to protect the environment, the levels of these chemicals in milk are low, well under the limits set for these pollutants.