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Proper Care and Handling of School Milk: A HACCP Case Study

Quick Tips #229

Milk is nutritious. It contains calcium, as well as protein, vitamins and other minerals essential for growth, bone density and overall good health. Children aged 4 to 8 years require three 8-oz. servings of milk (or foods from the milk group) daily, while children aged 9 to 18 years need four 8-oz. servings daily for adequate levels of calcium and nutrients. Approximately 75% of dietary calcium comes from milk and other dairy products. Unfortunately, studies show that children and teens don't get enough calcium.

The facts:

  • 7 out of 10 girls and 6 out of 10 boys, ages 6-11, fail to consume recommended levels of calcium
  • On average, teenage boys consume only two servings a day from the milk group, while teenage girls consume a little more than one serving per day
  • Overall, Americans consume only an average of 1.5 servings from the milk group each day

Some children may not drink milk if it tastes too warm or has off flavors. Of the children that don't consume milk on a regular basis, 55% stated they would drink milk if it was served at a colder temperature.

Milk is an essential component of any school lunch program. By applying a simple but effective quality control system, called Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Points (HACCP), the result will be safer, colder and fresher-tasting milk making it more attractive to younger individuals.

HACCP is a science-based food system whereby potential hazards are identified, critical limits are established and subsequent actions are taken to prevent or correct these hazards. (For further information on HACCP, see Quick Tips #226: HACCP: Understanding Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point).

Within HACCP, a critical control point (CCP) is defined as a point, procedure or step at which a food safety hazard could either be eliminated, prevented or reduced. In addition, each CCP has at least one, and possibly several, control measures to prevent, eliminate or reduce the potential hazard. There are three critical control points for a school milk proper care and handling.

Receiving is critical because the quality of the school milk at this stage affects the quality throughout the other two stages. Check the delivery trucks appearance to ensure it is clean and refrigerated. Inspect the crates and observe if the cartons are clean, sealed and undamaged. Check the "sell by date" to confirm that the quantity of school milk ordered will be used by that date. After these observations, ensure that the temperature of a sample carton is 33 to 41°F. Finally, check the smell and taste of the milk for any off odors or flavors. If for any reason you are concerned about the quality of the milk, reject it.

For storage, make sure the refrigerator or cooler is chilled to the proper temperature (33 to 41°F) prior to delivery. Transfer the school milk immediately to cold storage after delivery, and rotate stock on a regular basis. Store the school milk separately from other food products because it readily absorbs odors; garlic and onions even lettuce and celery can impart off flavors. Keep the cooler clean and odor free, and take care of spills immediately. Additionally, establish regular cleaning and preventative maintenance schedules.

The importance of keeping school milk cold during the serving period was demonstrated in a study where1/3 of schools polled reported milk temperatures higher than 41°F at the end of the serving period. (The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that state health departments enforce a milk serving temperature of 33 to 41°F).

When serving school milk, check and record the temperature of the milk at the beginning, during and end of the meal periods. To keep milk as cold as possible, display it in insulated containers or barrels or in a cooler. You may even consider using curtains to better control the temperature of the cooler.

A simple but effective component in controlling school milk temperature is to let the students select their own milk cartons; less handling keeps the milk colder. In addition, the FDA food code states that any milk taken by students that has not been consumed, even unopened containers, cannot be redistributed or used in food production; this milk should be discarded. Milk on the serving line that is kept cold is safe to offer at another meal.

Devoting just a few minutes of time to the quality and temperature of the milk served in schools could result in lasting improvements to the product that is served to students. Employing HACCP, monitoring the critical control points and applying corrective actions when needed will result in safer, colder and fresher-tasting milk. In addition, establish and maintain thorough and accurate procedures and verification records. Keep these records on-site and make them easily accessible.

Check your local health code ordinance; some temperatures may vary.

Commonly Asked Questions

Q: Does HACCP have a series of steps to follow?

A: Yes, HACCP is based on seven basic principles: analysis of workplace hazards, identification of critical control points, establishment of critical limits, monitoring of critical control points, application of corrective actions, verification procedures and documentation of the system. Consult 9 CFR Part 417 or Quick Tips #226: HACCP: Understanding Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point for further information.

Q: Should anything be done prior to establishing a HACCP program in a school?

A: Yes, HACCP must be based on a solid foundation of preexisting programs for it to work effectively. Examples include good personal hygiene and sound cleaning/sanitation procedures. Many of these programs and practices are outlined in federal, state and local regulations and guidelines.


U.S. Food & Drug Administration
5600 Fishers Lane
Rockville, MD 20857
Phone: 1-888-463-6332

National Dairy Council 10255 W. Higgins Road, Suite 900
Rosemont, IL 60018
Phone: 1-847-803-2000

9 CFR Part 417
Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service
Contents of HACCP Plans

American School Food Service Association
1600 Duke Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
Phone: 1-800-877-8822

National Sanitation Foundation International
789 N. Dixboro Road
Ann Arbor, MI 48105
Phone: 1-888-NSF-FOOD
Fax: 734-769-0109

The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.


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