Food Safety

Safe Milk

In earlier days, producers and retailers took many food safety precautions, using the technology available at the time. These measures were not as closely regulated or monitored as they are today, and people often became ill.

In 1889, when one of her babies died of ‘summer milk ailment’, (possibly either mycobacterium tuberculosis or salmonella), Adelaide Hoodless led the public movement to have all milk pasteurized. Later, Dr. John Amyot (Deputy Minister of Health for Ontario) introduced legislation for the pasteurization of milk.

From Cow to Milk Bottle

Farmers used to milk their cows by hand twice a day. Nowadays, milking machines do the job. Directly connected to sanitized pipelines, these milking machines transfer milk to a bulk tank which keeps it fresh and cool. Dairy farms have milk coolers with computerized alarms to warn the farmer if the temperature becomes too high.

Adelaide Hunter Hoodless (1857-1910)
University of Guelph: Federated Women’s Institutes of Ontario Collection
Tin-Plated Milk Pail, ca. 1890
Artifact no. 2001.0248

This type of pail was used when hand-milking a cow. Tin plating prevented oxidization of the pail from contact with milk and with the boiling water needed to clean the pail after each use.

Homemade Milking Stool, ca. 1850
Eastern Townships, Quebec
Artifact no. 2001.0232

The farmer's wife sat comfortably on the upper level of this stool. The pail was placed off the floor, away from contaminants such as straw and manure.

Courtesy of the Ontario Farm Animal Council

The milk house is separate from the rest of the dairy barn, so that the bulk tank and milking equipment can be kept clean.

Milk Bottle Carrier, ca. 1950
Artifact no. 1975.1041

Special square bottles fit into this milk carrier, which milkmen used when delivering milk to homes from their milk trucks. The empty bottles were brought back to the dairy to be cleaned and reused.

Pasteurizer Plate, ca. 1950
Artifact no. 1979.0274

Pasteurization works on the principle that raising the temperature of a liquid high enough will kill most disease producing bacteria. Pipes containing superheated steam run through a long vat containing the liquid. Heat is transferred to a row of plates through which the pipes pass, ensuring that the liquid is heated enough to kill harmful micro-organisms.

Milk Bottle, ca. 1920
Artifact no. 1975.0819

Parson's Dairy used its bottles to reassure customers that its cows had been tested and certified free of tuberculosis.

Bulk Shipping Can Sediment Sampler and Sediment Standards Guide, ca. 1930, 1938
Artifact nos. 1992.0704, 1992.0703

Once raw milk arrived at a dairy, a sample was taken from the bottom of the milk can with this tool. It was then checked against a sediment guide, in order to grade the farmer's shipment. Poor quality milk was made into cheese. If there were too many impurities, the dairy might refuse to purchase the milk.

“DeLaval” Milker and Claw, ca. 1960
DeLaval Manufacturing Company, Peterborough, Ontario
Artifact no. 1974.0553

Vacuum milking systems reduced the risk of contamination with foreign matter from the cow’s coat or the stable. The cups applied to the cow’s teats fed the milk directly into a closed container.

Milk pasteurization, 1920s
Archives of Ontario SHC-31
Milk-bottling machine at a dairy, ca. 1920
Archives of Ontario SHC-54
Bottle washing machine at a dairy, ca. 1920
Archives of Ontario SHC-54
Milk testing laboratory at the Toronto Board of Health, ca. 1920 Archives of Ontario SHC-43
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