The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a guidance document on Aug. 11 announcing it will exercise discretion when enforcing the use and labeling of ultrafiltered (UF) milk. Additionally, the FDA will initiate the process to write final rules regulating UF milk used in the manufacture of all standardized cheeses and related cheese products covered by the federal standards of identity.

Natzke dave
Editor / Progressive Dairy

The notice was scheduled to be published in the Aug. 14 Federal Register.

UF milk gained widespread international notoriety earlier this year with changes to Canadian dairy ingredient policies, making U.S. exports of the product uneconomical, and essentially slamming the door on shipments to Canada. With no Canadian export market, and restrictions on UF milk use in the U.S., some companies have been forced to shut down or curtail UF milk processing operations, further hampering processing capacity.

In the U.S., efforts to get the FDA to make policy changes regarding UF milk have been simmering for nearly two decades.

Read: UF milk fighting FDA label, Canadian border barriers


The FDA’s action seeks to change that.

In the notice in the Federal Register, the FDA said that while it completes final rulemaking to revise labeling requirements, it will exercise enforcement discretion regarding the declaration of UF milk and nonfat UF milk ingredients on cheese labels. This will allow the cheese industry to use UF milk more widely and will streamline the existing complex labeling requirements.

The guidance will not affect the use and labeling of UF milk in fluid milk and other dairy products.

IDFA applauds move

International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) President and CEO Michael Dykes commended FDA leaders “for taking a common-sense approach to a long-standing regulatory burden on dairy foods companies.”

“After lagging for more than two decades, it is good to see the regulations on the use of UF milk are catching up with this safe and sustainable production technology, which is already used around the world,” said Dykes.

UF milk is milk that has been filtered to remove some of the water and lactose, which increases the protein content while reducing total fluid volume – which cuts transportation costs. The use of UF milk increases efficiency in cheesemaking by improving cheese yield.

Until now, U.S. cheesemakers have been living under an unfinished FDA rule, allowed to use UF milk in only a few standardized cheeses, but with complex labeling requirements. At the same time, a rule has been pending at the FDA that supports the use of UF milk in all standardized cheeses, but it also includes impractical labeling requirements, according to IDFA.

Wisconsin reaction

“Today’s action will open up U.S. markets to ultrafiltered milk, and that’s a huge win for America’s Dairyland,” said Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) Secretary Ben Brancel.

Many Wisconsin dairy farmers were directly impacted by a change in Canadian dairy ingredient pricing policy that effectively closed the door on UF exports to Canada. The action forced the DATCP, led by Brancel, to scramble to help find a marketing home for the milk from 58 of the state’s dairy farmers. The FDA’s announcement came two day’s before Brancel’s retirement, Aug. 13.

Read: Milk with no home: Producers, processor face challenging times

“Because a regulatory process was bogged down in Washington, we have not been able to ship ultrafiltered milk domestically,” said Brancel. “(This) decision opens up endless possibilities for our dairy industry.”  end mark

Dave Natzke