Voluntary Shelf-Life Program

Voluntary Shelf Life Program:

Because of the economic significance of the fluid milk processing sector, the fluid milk Voluntary Shelf-Life (VSL) Program is the focal point of the MQIP at Cornell University. Under this program, each NYS processing plant is visited and sampled at least two times each year. Fluid milk products produced at each plant are collected and subjected to shelf-life studies. Analyses include: chemical (freezing point and fat determination), microbiological (standard plate count and coliform count), and sensory evaluation. Each processing plant receives a timely report on analyses of samples collected for shelf-life studies as well as the findings of the plant visitation.

The specific objectives of this project are:

  • To monitor initial and keeping quality of commercially processed fluid milk products in New York State.
  • To monitor raw milk quality in New York State.
  • To assist NY State dairy plants in identifying and correcting handling and processing problems affecting dairy product quality.
  • To support Cornell Cooperative Extension and the American Dairy Association in their missions of increasing per capita consumption of milk and enhancing financial returns to dairy farmers through improving the flavor and quality of New York State milk and dairy products.

Extension Activities

Besides the VSL program, the MQIP personnel are involved in a variety of other extension activities supporting New York State dairy farmers in their efforts to increase the quality of raw and processed milk and milk products. They conduct a variety of workshops and present talks and papers at regional, national and international meetings. MQIP personnel also visit farms and dairy processing facilities and consult with farmers and processors to help improve the quality of their products and solve quality problems.  For further information or if you are interested in a consultation with an extension specialist, please contact Louise Felker at the address below or visit the Dairy Foods Extension Program page.
Dairy Foods Extension Program
Extension Calendar of Events

Research Activities

The laboratories and staff of the MQIP are involved in a variety of applied research projects related to the quality and safety of milk and dairy products. A number of research projects are conducted in collaboration with the Cornell Food Science Department Food Safety Laboratory. Results from these research projects are rapidly communicated to the dairy industry resulting in immediate improvements for the industry.

Examples of research projects include:

  • Evaluation of ATP hygiene monitoring for trouble-shooting fluid milk shelf-life problems
  • Development of PCR assays for the detection of spore-forming bacteria
  • Evaluation of methods to monitor raw milk bacterial counts
  • Evaluation of protective barriers for milk flavor and vitamin retention
  • Determination of consumer acceptance of ultra-pasteurized milk
  • Establishment of a database for dairy spoilage organisms & pathogens; tracking system for their origin
  • Development of a quantitative descriptive analysis approach for sensory evaluation of dairy products
  • Institution of the NYS cottage cheese shelf-life and quality improvement program
  • Validation method for analysis of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) - anti-carcinogenic properties
  • Investigation of growth characteristics of Streptococcus uberis in raw milk in relation to bacteria "spikes"
  • Determination of threshold levels and consumer acceptance of light oxidation in milk
  • Development of chemical analyses for standardized identification of sensory defects
  • Shelf-life extension of high temperature shortage (HTST) pasteurized milk beyond 14 days
  • Investigation and reduction of chocolate milk spoilage
  • Support for dairy plant Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) Program development
  • Genetic profiling, characterization and tracking of spore-forming milk spoilage organisms
  • Influence of processing parameters on bacterial outgrowth in milk (e.g., pasteurization temperature's influence on spore-formers)
  • Assessment of levels and characterization of spore-former diversity (psychrotolerant, mesophilic, thermophilic) in raw milk and processed products
  • Identification of farm practices that influence presence and numbers of spore-former types in raw milk
  • Understanding the transmission of spore-formers in dairy powder processing facilities from raw milk/whey to bag
  • Utilization of molecular fingerprinting tools to facilitate farm-to-product source tracking and raw milk quality improvement