Repasteurized milk can be sold as ‘fresh’
: Having moved recently to Hawaii, I was shocked to hear that almost all the "fresh" milk on Oahu has been repasteurized (pasteurized twice). I understand that this milk is shipped unrefrigerated from the mainland to Hawaii that requires a second pasteurization. While California and other states prohibit repasteurized milk from being sold as "market milk," there apparently isn't similar prohibition here. Can you confirm this, and why the state Department of Agriculture doesn't have restrictions against repasteurized milk as being sold as "fresh" milk? What are the pros and cons of repasteurized milk? Does it spoil more quickly than milk that has been pasteurized only once? Why isn't Hawaii-fresh milk sold on Oahu? Why isn't the consumer given all of the information about repasteurized milk and the option of purchasing Hawaii-fresh milk?
Answer: You are correct about the repasteurization, but apparently have some misconceptions about the process and status of fresh milk in Hawaii.
The state Department of Health oversees the safety of milk in Hawaii.
Neither the department's Administrative Rules (Chapter 15 dealing with "Milk") nor the Food and Drug Administration's Grade A Pasteurized Milk Ordinance prohibits repasteurization, said Sidney Doi, a program specialist with the department's Sanitation Branch.
Doi explained that milk is pasteurized in mainland milk plants, then loaded into approved, licensed milk-transport tankers for shipment to Hawaii.
"The stainless-steel tanker itself is not mechanically refrigerated, but it is extremely well insulated," he said. "It must meet a nationally recognized standard called the 3-A Standard."
Doi said the milk is loaded into the tanker at a very cold temperature, approximately 35 degrees Fahrenheit. When it reaches the local milk plant, it is usually 39 to 43 degrees Fahrenheit.
"The local milk plant will reject the tanker if the milk is received at above 45 degrees," as is required by state rules and the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance, Doi said.
"The milk must be repasteurized because the rules require that milk can be packaged or bottled only at the milk plant where final pasteurization is done," he said.
Regarding prohibitions against repasteurized milk being sold as "market milk," Doi said you may be misinterpreting the rules.
Both state rules and the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance require that if "packaged" (pasteurized) milk has physically left a milk plant, it may not be repasteurized for Grade A milk use, he said.
"However, the rules specifically permit the repasteurization of milk if transported in bulk tankers and handled properly," he said, emphasizing the words "specifically permit."
"In regards to it being sold as 'fresh' milk, the state rule makes no differentiation between milk that has been pasteurized once and milk pasteurized twice," Doi said. "The rule addresses milk safety only, and all Grade A milk must meet state and (Pasteurized Milk Ordinance) standards."
Doi said he was not aware of any studies addressing your spoilage question. He pointed out that state rules require that a milk plant label milk cartons with a pull date (month and day), after which the milk cannot be sold for human consumption.
"The milk plant sets this pull date based on their quality-assurance studies," he said. "If the pull date is inaccurate and the milk tends to spoil prematurely, the plant would be required to review the shelf life of the product and adjust the pull date, if necessary."
He said he couldn't address the pros and cons of repasteurized milk, other than to emphasize that the Health Department's responsibility is to enforce the provisions of Chapter 15 and the FDA's milk ordinance "in order to ensure that the milk is safe for public consumption."
Doi said Hawaii's milk regulation should not differ significantly from those of other states, because all 50 states participate in the Interstate Milk Shippers program, a voluntary state and U.S Public Health Service/ FDA program.
"The Pasteurized Milk Ordinance is the basic standard used in the shippers' program, and is recognized as the national standard for milk production," he said. Chapter 15 is based on that ordinance.
As for locally produced milk, the problem is that there are only a few dairy farms left in the state, so there is not enough being produced to meet demand. That's why most of the milk has to be imported.
As it is, "Island Fresh" milk is served exclusively within the state, Doi said. There is no exporting.
There are currently two dairies on Oahu and three on the Big Island, according to Jeri Kahana, manager of the state Department of Agriculture's Commodities Branch and Milk Control Section.
The "Island Fresh" milk they produce accounts for about 40 percent of the total milk supply in the state.
On Oahu alone, the Oahu dairies produce approximately 28 percent to 30 percent of the island's milk supply, with most of the milk going to school lunch programs, Kahana said
"You can rarely find 'Island Fresh' milk at retail," she said.
However, the three dairies on the Big Island produce practically all the milk sold on that island, she said.
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