Analytical methods a key focus for the dairy sector: IDF/ISO strategic plan

Posted: 1 May 2014 | Jaap Evers, Chair / Aurelie Dubois, IDF / Sophie More, ISO TC34/SC5 / Steve Holroyd, Chair Analytical Methods for Composition / Christian Baumgartner, Chair Analytical Methods for Additives & Contaminants / Jackie Page, Chair Analytical Methods for Processing Aids & Indicators / Jerome Combrisson, Former Chair Analytical Methods for Dairy Microorganisms / Barbara Gerten, Chair Harmonisation of Microbiological Methods / Silvia Orlandini, Chair Statistics and Automation, IDF/ISO Methods Standards Steering Group | No comments yet

The International Dairy Federation (IDF) is a science-based, non-profit private sector organisation which represents the interests of various stakeholders in dairy (including dairy farmers, dairy processing industries, dairy suppliers, academics and governments/food control authorities) at the international level. IDF aims to identify, elaborate and disseminate best practice at the international level to guide the dairy sector and to harmonise the work of its members on a variety of issues, including standards for methods of analysis and sampling (MAS).

Dairy Processing (©‎ Nalentyn Volkov /

Dairy Processing (©‎ Nalentyn Volkov /

Collaboration between IDF and ISO

IDF and the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) have a long-standing cooperation, dating back to 1963, relating to the development of standards for MAS for milk and milk products. The organisations used to publish MAS separately, which in most cases were technically equivalent. In 2001, IDF and ISO strengthened their cooperation when they agreed to publish joint international standards for analytical methods for the dairy sector. 

The IDF and ISO work programmes for dairy-related MAS are now completely integrated. The IDF Methods Standards Steering Group (MSSG) coordinates this joint programme of work. The technical work is carried out by IDF Standing Committees (SCs).

Rationale for new strategic plan

Internationally harmonised standards for MAS benefit all parts of the dairy chain, and are used for:

  • Raw milk quality testing and farmer payment
  • Herd improvement
  • Manufacturing process control and optimisation
  • Compliance with food standard specifications / truth of labelling
  • Safeguarding food safety.

IDF and ISO have jointly published over 170 standards for MAS for the dairy sector. Codex Alimentarius has endorsed more than 60 of these standards. As well as being referred to by Codex for international trade, many of these MAS are referred to in regional (e.g. EC Directives) and national legislation. Hence, these analytical standards are international references for the determination of a broad range of analytes in milk and milk products. These MAS facilitate the international trade of dairy and enable the global dairy sector to operate and innovate.

In view of global drivers such as food security, food integrity and global harmonisation, the MSSG has developed a strategy that will see IDF and ISO capitalising on their core strengths as well as extending their work beyond merely developing MAS.

New vision

To create improved value and performance, IDF and ISO must: (1) leverage strengths; (2) seize opportunities; and (3) address weaknesses and threats. The strategic outcomes of their work are to deliver on the new vision for their joint analytical work programme, which is as follows:

The MSSG will create value for the international dairy sector, as well as for IDF and ISO, through:

  • Developing internationally harmonised and accepted methods of analysis and sampling
  • Providing expert advice on analytical matters to support IDF, or its subsidiary bodies, in achieving its objectives
  • Supporting the reputation of IDF/ISO, and their ability to influence, through professional technical representation of IDF/ISO at other international organisations / forums.

Key strategic deliverables

The four key deliverables are shown in Figure 1 and explained below.

Develop and publish internationally harmonised methods for the global dairy sector

This remains a core deliverable and includes ensuring that relevant standards are endorsed by Codex Alimentarius.

Build liaisons with other standards development organisations (SDOs)

Currently, IDF and ISO have mutually beneficial collaborations with AOAC INTERNATIONAL, the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN), the Interagency Meeting (IAM), the International Committee for Animal Recording (ICAR) and US Pharmacopeia (USP). Further collaborations, where synergies can be achieved, costs reduced and global harmonisation facilitated, will be actively pursued.

Deliver new services beyond the development of MAS

Although standards development will remain the core activity, IDF needs to expand its analytical services beyond merely codifying methods. IDF’s strength is that it provides a consensus-building platform for the global dairy sector. Hence, it is well placed to function as the global dairy sector’s ‘spokesperson’ and to lead new initiatives that benefit its stakeholders.

Build the pool of expertise within the IDF/ISO programme of work on MAS

Most of the active experts in the IDF/ISO analytical work programme are currently based in Europe. To improve global representation, IDF will continue to target the participation of analytical experts from other geographies throughout the world.


A critical question to ask is ‘How will this strategy deliver value to the global dairy sector?’ This question essentially captures the central theme of the IDF/ISO Analytical Week Symposium on The Role of Standardisation in Trade (Rotterdam, 5 June 2013). Representatives of the World Trade Organisation, dairy industry, and standards development organisations (including Codex Alimentarius, AOAC INTERNATIONAL and ISO) provided clear answers. Here, we share some of these with you and will present them in line with the above-mentioned four strategic themes.

Develop international standards

Bernard Kuiten, Head of External Relations at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), who moderated the symposium, paints the overall picture: “Governments want to ensure traded products are safe or simply convenient for their consumers and producers to use. But standards can be also an excuse to be protectionist. They should therefore be crafted in a way that boosts trade by raising market confidence in the goods and services traded.”

Indeed, the crafting of analytical standards is the task and remit of SDOs, i.e. IDF and ISO for the dairy sector. The benefit for the organisations themselves is clear: they earn income from selling these standards. However, what is the value for the dairy sector stakeholders? The answer to this question is ‘it depends’. Many organisations are standards takers. In other words, they utilise a standard once it has been published. There is significant value in this as these analytical standards will help their business thrive by improving efficiency. However, more value is created when organisations participate in the development of standards. Marie-Noelle Bourquin (Technical Group Manager, ISO Central Secretariat) says that standardisation is a strategic business issue: “Standards are never neutral. They reflect the strengths and innovations of those who offer them to the standardisation committees. Non-participation in the standards setting process abdicates the decision-making to the competition.”

Build liaisons with other SDOs

A recent example of the impact of liaisons between SDOs is the cooperation agreement that AOAC INTERNATIONAL and ISO signed in 2012 regarding methods for infant formula and adult nutritionals. The cooperation also involves IDF through its existing agreement with ISO. The project will deliver internationally accepted analytical methods to measure micronutrients, including vitamins and minerals. These methods will help prevent or resolve disputes on compliance with regulations.

Dr Erik Konings, Group Manager at Nestlé, explains: “Infant formula is the most heavily regulated food product in the world. Many Codex-endorsed standards date back to the 1980s, but new products have since appeared on the market, e.g. containing hydrolysed protein, which may face analytical challenges. Most of the existing methods are not validated for infant formula in general, and this is especially true for new products. The sector urgently needs validated methods to verify compliance with regulations and that also are suitable as international dispute methods. Hence, it is fantastic to see AOAC INTERNATIONAL, ISO and IDF collaborating on this work as this will enhance harmonisation and avoid duplication of work. The value to all stakeholders will be that ultimately these methods are going to be endorsed by Codex Alimentarius, which means that globally manufacturers, authorities, contract laboratories etc. will have a common understanding on analytical methods to use.”

Deliver new services beyond the development of MAS

One example of the value created from this strategic objective is the project to establish a harmonised international reference system for somatic cell counting. The somatic cell count is an indicator for udder health status and is relevant in food legislation, raw milk payment and farm management / breeding programmes. Worldwide, more than 500 million tests are performed annually. The issue is that the reference method is laborious and has poor precision, whereas routine measurement is automated / fast and has good precision, but needs stable homogeneous reference material. Unfortunately, the traditional calibration scheme is not robust. IDF has partnered with ICAR to create a well-defined reference system based on data obtained with both the reference method and the routine method, the use of suitable reference material and data from proficiency testing. The ultimate aim is to obtain recognition/adoption by regulatory bodies and other competent authorities.

Another example is the role that IDF can play in providing science-based input into international forums. Sasha Lazidu, Regulatory Manager Europe at Fonterra, the largest dairy exporter in the world, identifies IDF as the key spokesperson for the global dairy sector: “The Codex Committee on Methods of Analysis & Sampling is considering work on product assessment taking account of measurement uncertainty. This work needs scientific/technical input from the dairy sector to ensure guidelines are developed that protect the consumer and which do not unfairly penalise producers. IDF is the only platform to generate a global consensus view for the global dairy sector.”


Build the pool of expertise within the IDF/ISO programme of work on MAS

One of the strengths of IDF/ISO analytical standards is that they are created by the people that need them. Dairy sector experts drive the standard development process, from deciding whether a new standard is needed to defining the technical content. Getting involved in this process can bring significant advantages to businesses by giving early access to information that could shape the market in the future. Furthermore, a greater involvement from other economies in the network of experts developing MAS for the dairy sector will result in the standards-setting process becoming more robust, transparent and valuable. In turn, the uptake of these standards will increase, which will contribute to a greater global harmonisation. Hence, all stakeholders in the dairy supply chain will benefit.


The new vision for their joint analytical work programme provides a focused framework for IDF and ISO to pro-actively manage the future of the international standardisation of analytical methods for the dairy sector. By building on their core strength (i.e. the development of internationally harmonised and accepted methods), expanding their outputs through liaisons with other SDOs, delivering new services, and increasing expert participation from underrepresented geographies, IDF and ISO will create more value for the global dairy sector stakeholders.

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