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Dairy farms should eliminate chlorine-based products in final rinses to reduce the risk of chlorate residues in milk products. The latest advice from the Milking Equipment Association (MEA) states that cleaning and disinfection of milking equipment should avoid or replace the use of chlorine in the final rinses. MEA Chair, John Baines, says:

“EU Legislation has set a new maximum residue limit (MRL) for chlorates in milk products to ensure that levels do not exceed 0.1mg/kg. Chlorates are breakdown products from chlorine-based chemicals used in milking equipment cleaning and disinfection.  The risk of chlorate residues is highest in heavily processed products, especially milk powders and infant formula. The European Food Safety Authority has advised that exposure to chlorates for long periods of time can lead to iodine deficiencies in infants.

Red Tractor standards state that milking equipment should be left free of chemical residues by implementing a final rinse with potable (drinking quality) water. When water is used directly from mains supply, it may not be necessary to use any disinfectant in final rinses.  It is a requirement to add disinfectant to private supply water or where there are doubts about water quality. In this case, sodium hypochlorite has been the traditional disinfectant added to final rinses. 

For farms cleaning milking equipment manually, the absence of careful measurement of chemicals may result in unsafe levels of chlorine in final rinses. Mr Baines adds, “Using more chlorine will not necessarily improve the cleanliness of milking equipment.”

With automatic cleaning control systems, correct installation, calibration, and maintenance of equipment is paramount to regulate the use of disinfectants. “Automated equipment should be installed, calibrated, and serviced by trained dairy technicians, ideally with a Milking Systems Technician Accreditation (MSTA) to ensure correct concentrations of chemicals are used,” says Mr Baines.

Where chlorine-based disinfectants are used in final rinses, chlorine free alternatives such as peracetic acid should be considered.

The MEA accepts that the use of chlorine-based products is not prohibited. However, milk buyers expect that farms reduce the risk of chlorate residues by using a peracetic acid in final rinses, boiling water cleaning, or disinfection,” says Mr Baines.

Robotic technology has taken the lead on cleaning without chlorine, choosing to use a boiling water alternative. Acid or alkali is added to the early stage of the cleaning to prevent fat or mineral deposits.  Most importantly, the high temperature disinfects equipment surfaces, meaning that no disinfectant is required.  This removes the risk of chlorates in milk products.

“Whilst technology has some of the answers, installation, calibration and maintenance of all milking systems should be carried out according to manufacturer’s guidelines, by MSTA accredited technicians.” he concludes.