Sunday, December 6, 2009


Ireland is not a big country measured by any yardstick but technologically, being a part of European Union, is much advanced following all the safety protocols when it comes to food processing. Though it accounts for less than 1% of global milk production, more than 85% of its production is exported mainly to Europe, China and other Asian countries. Increased concerns about food safety world over, keeping the quality on par with international standards is a herculean task. Major problems include the high Somatic Cell Count(SCC), increased use of antibiotics in the farms, pronounced shift in the microbial profile from Staphylococcus aureus to antibiotic resistant Streptococcus uberis and E.coli which call for immediate remedial action to prevent avoidable export set back in future. Experts point out that all the stakeholders in Irish dairy industry are not appreciating the gravity of the situation.

"In essence, there are two food-safety hits: the high SCC of milk; and the increased use of antibiotics with residue and resistance pressures. Is it possible to address these on farm milk-quality issues? Yes, but the approach has to be holistic, methodically addressing farm issues within the trinity of milking machine, milking routine and the offending mastitis bug and its environment. There are certainly issues of conflict that prevent this SCC reduction on Irish farms.Are the milk processors seriously concerned about milk quality when they fail to offer any bonus payment for lower SCC milk and only apply penalties reluctantly to milk over the agreed limits? Do the milk processors care about public health when separate arms within these companies rely on volume sales of antibiotic milking tubes and dry cow tubes for profit? Is the Government serious about milk quality when it introduces poorly policed animal-remedy legislation, which hijacks milk-quality programmes and serves to shovel antibiotics into the food chain? Is the veterinary profession serious when some veterinary colleagues breach legislative and ethical guidelines by prescribing for whole regions and provinces of Ireland without ever setting foot on the farms or communicating with local vets?"

The issues raised are typical, being faced in many countries where technology intensive dairying is in vogue without adequate safeguards and overseeing. Indiscriminate use of antibiotics in the feeds and treating the milk teats with antibiotics certainly can create resistance in the infecting microbes over a period of time which can have disastrous consequences on the prevalent disease control practices in human beings


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