In a letter to its producers, Hilmar Cheese Company announced that it has lowered its somatic cell count (SCC) level to a maximum of 400,000.

“In order to maintain our position in the global market place, Hilmar Cheese Company, Inc., must meet certain quality criteria established by each country or region with which we do business,” wrote John Jeter, chief executive officer and president. “Effective Jan 26, 2010 and without prior notice to the U.S. dairy industry, the European Union (EU) changed its requirements to a maximum of 400,000 SCC per dairy. Therefore, we must immediately tighten our raw milk SCC standards to meet the needs of our international customers.”

Prior to Jan. 26, the EU defined “milk production holding tank” at the plant level. “Our Hilmar Cheese Company composite results have always fallen well below the 400,000 standard and thus, we were in compliance,” notes Jeter.

Under the new definition, the holding tank refers to each individual dairy farm. This change is significant because every dairy’s rolling three-month SCC average must now be less than 400,000 or all Hilmar Cheese Company products destined for the EU – either directly or as an ingredient in a final product – will be denied.

To make sure dairies do not exceed the expectation, red flag letters will be sent out for every two week period when SCC counts are above 350,000. Dairies with average SCC counts above 400,000 for a month period may be considered for contract termination and that milk will not be allowed into the Hilmar Cheese facility.

“The change is meant to ensure that our milk continues to exceed the most stringent quality standards for all of our global customers,” says Jeter.

Source: Hilmar Cheese Company