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Good manufacturing practices: Dairy processors

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The following good manufacturing practices (GMPs) are intended to help dairy processors control the operational conditions within their facility, allowing for environmental conditions that are favourable to the production of safe and suitable dairy products.

Record keeping

In a Preventive control plan (PCP), it is important to maintain and keep records of activities which demonstrate that the PCP is implemented and working effectively. Records can be in either a hard copy or electronic format. Refer to Record keeping for your preventive control plan for additional information.


The premises include all elements in the building and building surroundings: building design and construction, product flow, sanitary facilities, water quality, drainage, the outside property, roadways and waste disposal.

Facility blueprints and process flow diagrams

Blueprints and/or process flow diagrams provide a documentation of the structures in a facility as well as product flow.


Blueprint examples:

Information to include in a blueprint:

Process flow diagrams

Process flow separation

Adequate segregation of incompatible products and activities is necessary otherwise cross contamination may result. Examples of incompatible products and activities include raw materials and pasteurized or sterilized food products, cleaning products and food products, and waste materials or utility materials and food products.

Facility exterior

The exterior of the facility is designed, constructed and maintained to prevent entry of contaminants and pests.

Facility interior

This section covers all floors, walls, ceilings, stairs and elevators, utility lines and electrical boxes in the facility. It also covers all windows, doors and openings (plastic curtains, hose ports, can inlet and outlet), loading facilities, lighting and ventilation.

The interior structures are unlikely to have direct contact with the food produced in the facility. However, accumulations of dust and dirt and condensation may become sources of contamination.

Floors, walls, ceilings, stairs and elevators

Utility lines (such as lines for water, steam, electricity, coolants, air and vacuum)

Doors and windows

Loading areas



It may be necessary to install heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems or exhaust fans if air quality is inferior or to provide specialized treatment of air. Inadequate ventilation may lead to the presence of odours, condensation or mould growth.


Waste disposal

Ensure dairy products are not exposed to contamination risks from waste disposal methods.

Sewage disposal

Garbage disposal

Sanitary facilities

Careful and frequent hand washing in food handling situations reduces contamination. The location, number and the condition of hand cleaning and sanitizing stations are extremely important to the maintenance of good hygienic practices

Hand cleaning and sanitizing stations

Employee facilities

Essential signs

Signage helps reinforce essential management policies.

Non processing areas

Non processing areas include equipment cleaning and sanitizing facilities (for example, Clean-out-of-place (COP) areas) as well as boiler and compressor rooms, retail operations and mechanical shops. Because there is no exposed product in these areas it is not essential to meet the same sanitary conditions as the food processing areas of the facility.

Water/steam safety and supply

This section covers the quality of the water and steam emanating from the facility's lines and hoses for use in various processing applications.

Water safety

Refer to Water for use in the preparation of food, Ice used in the preparation of food and Culinary steam for more guidance on control measures that can prevent water, ice and culinary steam from being a source of contamination to dairy products.

There are areas and processes in dairy facilities that may pose a backflow risk, including:

Design and install equipment and/or pipelines in a manner that will not jeopardize the safety of potable water.

Refer to Preventing water backflow for guidance on the use of appropriate backflow prevention devices.

Water treatment

If the source of the water poses a contamination risk it may be necessary to treat the water. The water treatment method used will depend on the reason for treating the water, for example, microbiological, protozoan, viruses, or chemical.

Chlorine may be used as a disinfectant for well water supply. The dose is dependent on the water flow rate, pH, temperature and chemical composition. Automatic dosing can be done by the use of a metering device.

When automatic chlorinators are used:

Where water is in direct contact with finished product (for example, when washing cheese curds) or when water is added unintentionally when flushing product post-pasteurization:

Water reuse

Reuse water is water that has been recirculated or reclaimed from a processing step, including from the food components, and that after subsequent reconditioning treatment(s), is reused in the same, prior, or subsequent food processing operations.

Steam supply

Refer to Culinary steam for additional guidance.

Water and steam hose equipment

Poorly maintained hoses may contribute to the contamination of the water supply.


Records demonstrate the adequacy of the microbiological and chemical safety of the water and steam supply.

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system units

Since air from the HVAC system unit is supplied to various parts of the facility by ducts, it is important that this air supply not be a source of contamination. Pathogenic organisms can enter the product via a contaminated air source.

Glass breakage policy

Transportation and storage (including receiving)

Ingredients, packaging materials and other incoming materials are transported, received, inspected and stored in a manner which prevents conditions which may result in the contamination of food.


External food carriers

Temperature control

Internal transportation equipment

Carts used for transportation of ingredients and finished products within the processing operation, as well as forklifts used in the warehouse, are subject to abuse. Careful maintenance is needed to upkeep these pieces of equipment.

Incoming material (ingredients and packaging)

This section covers all incoming material (except raw milk or cream) and packaging. Milk and cream are covered under Raw product acceptability, and non-food materials are covered under Non-food chemicals.

Procurement and receiving

For additional guidance on specifications and supplier approval, refer to the Supplier food safety assurance program.


Raw product acceptability

This section covers the acceptance, receiving, sampling and monitoring of raw milk, cream and other dairy products treated as raw ingredients and applies to these products from all species (for example, sheep, goat). Other incoming food ingredients are addressed in Incoming material.

The receiving of raw milk and cream needs to be well controlled to minimize growth of microorganisms and toxins that could affect food safety.



Raw product monitoring

Raw product and mix storage, aging, cooling, returns and rework

The storage time and temperature of raw milk and cream need to be well controlled to minimize growth of microorganisms. Microbial growth could produce heat stable toxins and potentially pose a hazard that would not be controlled by the pasteurization step.

Storage of raw milk and cream

Thermisation is a mild form of heat treatment which can be used to extend the keeping quality of raw milk before pasteurization. Milk subjected to thermisation is still considered to be raw.

Storage of frozen dairy product mix

Pasteurized product intended for further processing could be re-contaminated due to improper handling or poor sanitation of storage tanks

Product aging

Certain dairy products are kept at temperatures that exceed 4°C as part of their manufacturing process; for example, during tempering, drying, curing and aging.

Product cooling

Handling of returns

Dairy products that are returned to the facility may be a source of contamination to the facility environment, equipment and other dairy products. Contamination can be prevented by not accepting returns, or by proper control of such products as they arrive at the facility from external sources such as retail outlets.

Reruns or rework

Finished product storage

Finished product needs to be stored and handled under conditions to prevent deterioration (for example, spoilage) and damage (for example, control of stacking heights and forklift damage).

If there is no capacity on site to cool the finished product to 4°C or less, the product may be transported to a public refrigerated warehouse in order to get the temperature down to an acceptable level (provided this practice does not contravene provincial regulatory requirements).

Wood shelves, 640s and pallets

Refer to Appendix H: Use of wood in dairy facilities for additional guidance on the use of wood 640's and wood shelving for curing bacterial surface ripened cheese.

Temperature and humidity control

Proper control of temperature and humidity is essential in various areas of the facility. In refrigerated storage areas it is necessary to maintain humidity conditions that prevent the formation of condensation and subsequent mould growth. Control of the conditions in the salting and curing stages of the manufacturing process will ensure even distribution of salt and optimal microbial and enzymatic activity in the ripening process.

Non-food chemicals


This section covers equipment and components which may affect the safety of the product.

Design and installation

Preventative maintenance


Air quality

This section covers the air and inert gases that are added directly into the product or on the packaging. It covers both ambient air and compressed air sources.

Air, when used for agitation, air blows, drying processes and incorporation into product (overrun), may be a vehicle that allows pathogenic organisms to enter the product. Poor quality air can also lead to product contaminated with particulate matter, condensate or oil.


Compressed air equipment

This section covers compressed air equipment that is used to operate valves and other equipment pneumatically. This air is not intended to be in direct contact with the product. If the air is in direct contact with the product or packaging, refer to Air quality.

Metal detector

Metal detectors need to be suitable for the specific product, associated hazard and the environmental conditions that the unit will operate in to ensure the effective removal of metals.

Critical process test procedures


The objective of training production employees is to ensure safe food handling practices.

Flow and practices

This section covers the movement or flow of both people and equipment throughout the facility as well as the processing practices used.



To reduce the risk of contamination in processing and packaging areas, restrict or control the movement equipment between areas. With respect to equipment layout, a process flow that is straight and simple is recommended from a sanitation point of view.

Hygiene and health

This section covers the employee's hygiene as well as their personal behaviour and habits in areas where food is processed.

Clean and appropriate clothing, good grooming and habits as well as employee health monitoring reduce the possibility of milk, milk products, containers and equipment from becoming contaminated.


Grooming and behaviours


Handling of materials

This section covers how ingredients (for example, fruits, nuts, powders, starter cultures) and packaging materials (for example, glass containers, foil and plastic wrap, powder bags) are handled during processing. It also covers the manual formation of packaging containers such as ice cream cartons.


This section covers the sanitation of all structures, equipment and utensils. For more guidance, refer to Cleaning and sanitation program.

Clean-in-place (CIP) systems

This cleaning technique is used for permanent installations which are difficult or impossible to clean by other techniques. It uses a combination of physical and chemical means to remove soil from food contact surfaces. Re-contamination potential is reduced by this technique because it is a closed system.

The following are recommendations for various components of the CIP system:

  1. Pumps
    • use centrifugal type solution and return pumps
    • use positive displacement type chemical feed pumps
  2. Tanks (solution and rinse)
    • use tanks that are stainless steel or corrosion resistant
    • have stainless steel or corrosion resistant baskets for parts washed in tank at same time (if applicable, for mobile CIP systems)
    • keep covered
  3. Pipelines and valves
    • ensure they are rigid
    • ensure they are sloped to enable draining
    • equip pipelines with line screens or filters
    • ensure food grade hoses are designed for CIP use or regularly disassemble for inspection and cleaning (if applicable, for mobile CIP systems)
  4. Thermostat
    • indicating thermometer (optional)
      • locate on return solution tank
      • locate in return line or in baskets when parts being washed (if applicable, for mobile CIP systems)
  5. Recording thermometer and charts
    • locate in return solution line
    • locate in return line or in baskets when parts being washed (if applicable, for mobile CIP systems)
  6. Temperature controller
    • locate on return solution tanks
    • if not present for mobile systems, keep manual records for time, temperature and concentrations; record at start and end of CIP

Pest control

The presence of pests such as insects, rodents and birds in and around dairy establishments is unsanitary.

The key activities to control for pests are:

For additional guidance on pest prevention and assessment, pest control measures and developing a pest control program, refer to Pest control.


A written recall procedure enables the effective recall of any lot of food from the market.

For additional guidance on how to develop an effective recall program, refer to Recall procedure: A guide for food businesses.

Process control

Implementing process controls throughout the manufacturing process help to ensure the production of safe food.

The following are recommended process controls for product formulae, food additives, nutritional requirements, label accuracy, product preparation, shelf life studies, product and environmental monitoring, and laboratory facilities and practices to ensure product is being manufactured as intended.

Manufacturing and allergen controls

This section covers controls for product formulae, food additives, nutritional requirements and label accuracy.

Product formulae

Food additives

Inadequate control of food additives could result in chemical or biological hazards.

Nutritional requirements

Formulation controls are necessary to prevent hazards which could result from excesses, inadequacies and omissions of nutrients, for example, infant formulae, fortified foods, foods for which there are nutritional claims (for example, calorie-reduced, low sodium).

Label accuracy

Accurate labels inform and protect segments of the population which may be allergic to certain foods.

Where the development of the label is completed at a corporate office, the processing facility should verify the accuracy of the label.

Product preparation

Tamper evident seals on packaging should be used to ensure the security and integrity of products once they are produced and until they are purchased by the consumer.

Microbiological controls

This section covers microbiological controls that are used to verify the production of safe food.

Product shelf life studies

Shelf life studies demonstrate that the safety and suitability of the milk product is retained throughout the shelf life of the product.

Refer to Shelf life studies for additional guidance.

Product and environmental microbiological monitoring

The monitoring of finished products and environmental conditions demonstrates adherence to good manufacturing practices and compliance to regulatory standards.

The potential for the growth of L. monocytogenes (Lm) in dairy products depends on certain inherent characteristics. Health Canada's Policy on Listeria monocytogenes ready-to-eat foods provides guidance on a risk-based approach to controlling Lm in the processing environment and RTE foods.

Composition control

The Canadian standards of identity, Volume 1 contains the composition requirements for dairy products. Finished product testing demonstrates that dairy products meet the parameters set out in the applicable standard (for example, moisture level, protein content).

In-house laboratory facilities and practices

Where testing is conducted in house, lab facilities can pose a risk of contamination to food if they are not controlled.

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