Originally published on April 15, 2015.
Dr. Heidi Kassenborg (front row, left) with members of a milk collection center in Bani-Suif
Dairy farmers in Egypt usually don’t own more than 5 cows, on average. Milk collection centers (MCCs) have popped up in rural areas in order to aggregate milk from multiple farmers (mostly women) and provide them with a fair price for their milk, offer veterinarian services and provide training; however, many of these centers generally lack knowledge of good hygiene practices and food safety protocols.
Since milk provides a perfect environment for bacteria growth bad hygiene practices are a recipe for disaster for unpasteurized and pasteurized milk. An escalating num-ber of zoonotic diseases have been recorded in hospitals as a result of consuming unsafe unpasteurized milk. While much of the milk from MCCs in Bani-Suif is destined for a yogurt manufacturer and will be pasteurized, bacteria can still be a problem because it can prematurely spoil the milk and interfere with good bacteria that are added to make products like yogurt. If too many bacteria are present in the milk, it can be rejected, adversely affecting the farmer’s income.
In December of 2014, Heidi Kassenborg, a veterinarian and former Director of the Dairy and Food Inspection Division at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, traveled to Egypt to help several MCCs and milk processing centers tackle their food safety challenges. Her visit was made possible by the Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Program, which is being implemented by Land O’Lakes International Development and funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
While on assignment in Egypt, Kassenborg’s main objective was to provide important recommendations in order to help MCCs reduce the public health risk, improve food safety and quality, and increase the value of the product. She visited four MCCs to gain an appreciation of their food safety challenges and opportunities and was able to provide some important hygiene recommendations to help to improve their milk supply.
In addition to purchasing milk, MCCs provide veterinarian services and training. Because milking on farms is done by hand, the opportunity for contamination is great. In order to help Field Representatives employed by MCCs to learn how they can better reduce contamination on-farm, Kassenborg also visited three representative farms and shared recommendations to help them improve the milk before it arrives at collection centers.
Dr. Kassenborg’s trip culminated in Bani-Suif, where she delivered a seminar to MCC veterinarians, technicians and managers on zoonotic diseases and safe milking procedures. During her seminar she outlined her recommendations on food safety protocols and hygiene practices.