Definition: In this section, milk may be derived from cows, sheep, or goats. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), under the US Department of Health and Human Services, defines milk as the lacteal secretion, practically free from colostrum, obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows, which may be clarified and may be adjusted by separating part of the fat therefrom; concentrated milk, reconstituted milk, and dry whole milk. The FDA provides a definition of milk and cream in the Code of Federal Regulations.

Each definition includes moisture, milk fat content, the inputs used (coloring, enzymes, flavoring, mold-inhibiting ingredients, stabilizers, sweeteners), processing (aging, curing, heating, pasteurizing, clarifying, bleaching), and final form of the food product (slices, blocks).

Food safety: Milk must be pasteurized to be sold to retail or wholesale customers in Colorado. Only Grade “A” pasteurized, ultra-pasteurized, or aseptically processed milk and milk products may be sold to the final consumer, to restaurants, soda fountains, grocery stores or similar establishments.

Raw milk may be sold ONLY through consumer-purchased shares of the animal from which the milk is drawn, and ONLY through on-farm sales. Those consumer-purchased shares must be documented with a written contract.

Pasteurization is a heat treatment that is effective in destroying the bacteria in milk that cause tuberculosis, salmonellosis, diphtheria, typhoid fever, and other illnesses without adversely affecting the milk’s nutritional content, flavor or quality. Rapid cooling of the milk following heat treatment and storage below 40 degrees F. help prevent milk spoilage and keep milk safe to drink.

Milk and other milk-based products naturally contain both beneficial and pathogenic bacteria. Beneficial bacteria, like Lactobacillus, help produce yogurt and other dairy foods and have a role in promoting gastrointestinal health. Harmful bacteria, such as Campylobacter jejuni, E. coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes, and Salmonella, may get into milk through cross-contamination and grow in the nutrient-rich environment milk provides. Infections from these pathogens, especially in persons with compromised immune systems, can cause severe diarrhea, cramps, fever, nausea, vomiting, headache and dehydration, as well as more serious complications like hemolytic uremic syndrome.

Science-based research and numerous incidences of foodborne outbreaks clearly demonstrate the risk associated with the consumption of raw milk (FDA, 2011).  The Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and U.S. Food and Drug Administration strongly recommend that the public does not consume raw milk or raw milk products. Young children, pregnant women, the elderly, people with weakened immune systems are particularly susceptible to infections originating in raw milk. For more information on the health risks associated with raw milk, please see CDC’s website Food Safety and Raw Milk , FDA’s website, Raw Milk Misconceptions and the Danger of Raw Milk Consumption and FoodSafety.Gov’s Milk, Cheese, and Dairy Products: Myths About Raw Milk.

Because of the dangers of pathogenic bacteria, most milk is treated by pasteurization. The state of Colorado requires that the pasteurization process be done in an approved pasteurizer, equipped with an indicating and recording thermometer. Batch pasteurizers must also have an air space thermometer and a properly-designed outlet valve with stops. For more information please contact CDPHE at 303-692-3633.

All dairy plants (place, premise, or establishment where milk or dairy products are received or handled for processing or manufacturing and/or prepared for distribution) must use Good Manufacturing Practices.

  • There are also guidelines for Dairy Grade A Voluntary HACCP which is a voluntary HACCP pilot program for dairy plants to test the concept that a HACCP program could function as an equal alternative to the numerical ratings that have been used for years to measure a plant’s compliance.
  • HACCP is a science-based system used to ensure that food safety hazards are controlled to prevent unsafe food from reaching the consumer.
  • The program utilizes current National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Food (NACMCF) consistent with current FDA recommendations.

FDA regulates processes and standards for Grade A milk collection, handling and pasteurization. This information can be accessed at Pasteurized Milk Ordinance: 2009.

Mandatory milk grades: Prior to sale, all Grade A milk and milk products sold in Colorado are required to be packaged and produced in a Grade A milk plant approved by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Division of Environmental Health and Sustainability. Additionally, the raw milk supply for Grade A milk plants must be from dairy farms approved by CDPHE’s Division of Environmental Health and Sustainability, and if the raw milk is required to be transported to the plant for processing, an approved milk tanker must be used (Colorado Rules and Regulations Pertaining to Colorado Grade A Milk and Pasteurized Milk and Fluid Milk Products).

Grade A milk, also called fluid grade milk, refers to milk produced under sufficiently sanitary conditions to qualify for fluid (beverage) consumption. Only Grade A milk is regulated under federal milk marketing orders. Grade B milk (also referred to as manufacturing grade milk) does not meet fluid grade standards and can only be used in cheese, butter and nonfat dry milk.

Voluntary milk grading: Dairy products may also be voluntarily graded as AA, Extra Grade, and Quality Approved, as defined by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (see examples below and AMS Dairy Grading). Dairy grading assists the dairy industry in marketing high-quality dairy products by providing buyers and sellers with an impartial appraisal of product quality and to provide the consumer confidence in buying. Grades are based on nationally uniform standards developed by Dairy Programs’ experts in cooperation with industry representatives. Sellers can request grading services to assure that products meet specific grade or contract requirements and have good keeping quality properties. Buyers can request grading services to assure that products have uniform high quality. Those wishing to use the services must request them, qualify for them, and pay a fee commensurate with the cost of providing them. Two examples of such services are the grade label program for butter and Cheddar cheese, and the acceptance service for volume buyers. Under the grade label program, consumer packages bear an official identification indicating the U.S. grade. As a part of the acceptance service, the user has all deliveries examined by USDA to certify that they meet specifications.

USDA AA Shield: Official USDA grades for dairy products, such as U.S. Grade AA for butter and Cheddar cheese, and U.S. Extra Grade for non-fat dry milk, are based on nationally uniform standards of quality developed by the Standardization Branch.

USDA US Extra Grade Shield: These standards promote uniformity in Federal grading services and are sometimes used by dairy plants in their quality control programs. The official USDA grade shield indicates the product’s quality level by use of letters such as “AA”, and “A” or the words “extra” and “standard”.

USDA Quality Approved Shield: Product specifications measure quality by establishing minimum acceptable requirements for dairy products not covered by an official grade standard. Specifications are a guide to quality for consumers; are routinely referenced in government procurement documents; and form a basis for trade across the United States. The official USDA quality approved shield can be applied to packages of dairy products meeting the requirements of a specification.

Distribution Method (Expand All | Collapse All)

All milk products to be marketed in Colorado are required to be from approved sources, though no permit is necessary to sell the products in this state. If the products to be sold are manufactured by a Colorado-based operation, that organization must possess a State manufacturer’s license. Additionally, all products that the manufacturer wishes to market are required to be from sources that have been inspected by the staff of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Division of Environmental Health and Sustainability.

You are selling your product at a farmers’ market, CSA, roadside stand, other direct to consumer outlet, store, restaurant, food cart, K-12 school, university, hospital, or other retail food establishment

Licensing: You must obtain a Grade A Dairy Farm License from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment before you receive, sell, buy or handle milk or cream including dairy, creamery, ice cream factory or cheese factory. Contact CDPHE at 303-692-3633. A  Retail Food Establishment License, issued by your county health department, is also required for retail sales.

Labeling: All bottles, containers and packages containing milk or milk products defined as Grade A (according to Pasteurized Milk Ordinance: 2009) must be labeled in accordance with the applicable requirements of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, and the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance: 2009.

All bottles, containers and packages containing milk or milk products, except milk tank trucks, storage tanks and cans of raw milk from individual dairy farms, must be conspicuously marked with:

  1. The identity of the milk plant where pasteurized, ultra-pasteurized, aseptically processed, condensed and/or dried.
  2. The words “keep refrigerated after opening” in the case of aseptically processed milk and milk products.
  3. The common name of the hooved mammal producing the milk shall precede the name of the milk or milk product when the product is or is made from other than cattle’s milk. As an example, “Goat”, “Sheep”, “Water Buffalo”, or “Other Hooved Mammal” milk or milk products respectively. (Refer to the NOTE: on page 27 of the PMO: 2009.)
  4. The words “Grade “A”" on the exterior surface. Acceptable locations shall include the principal display panel, the secondary or informational panel, or the cap/cover.
  5. The word “reconstituted” or “recombined” if the product is made by reconstitution or recombination.
  6. In the case of condensed or dry milk products the following shall also apply: a) the identity of the Regulatory Agency issuing such permit; and if distributed by another party, the name and address of the distributor shall be shown by a statement, such as “Distributed by”;and  b) a code or lot number identifying the contents with a specific date, run, or batch of the product, and the quantity of the contents of the container.

Also, all vehicles and milk tank trucks containing milk or milk products must be legibly marked with the name and address of the milk plant or hauler in possession of the contents.