COVID-19: Information for Consumers About Milk in Canada

1. Consumers can be confident in the quality and safety of the Canadian milk supply.

  • In Canada, farmers follow a rigid, well-documented set of practices and procedures every single day to ensure the safety of the Canadian milk supply. After it leaves the farm, milk is pasteurized, tested regularly, and handled and transported according to very specific protocols.
  • In Canada, consumers can rely on the quality of our milk because we have strict regulations as well as the dairy industry’s mandatory proAction program, which prescribes robust requirements, particularly with regards to food safety, milk quality, biosecurity, and traceability.

2. We have a robust food system here in Canada and consumers can be confident in the continued availability of Canadian milk and dairy products.

  • Canada’s dairy farmers and processors continue to work to ensure that consumers have access to a continuous and ample supply of nutritious dairy products.
  • Everyone in the dairy industry has responded to federal and provincial calls to support social distancing to flatten the COVID-19 curve, while also ensuring that operations continue with limited or no disruption to the food supply chain.

3. Dairy farmers are working proactively with industry stakeholders on a coordinated response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Some of the measures being undertaken include:

  • Encouraging farmers to follow all advice from the Public Health Agency of Canada and other authorities to prevent human-to-human transmission of the virus, such as practising social distancing. We have also asked farmers to cancel non-urgent farm visits and asked producers who exhibit symptoms or test positively for COVID-19 to self-isolate in accordance with guidance from public health officials.
  • Working with dairy-industry stakeholders including provincial dairy associations, processors and the Canadian Dairy Commission as well as other relevant federal government agencies and ministries (Public Health Agency of Canada, Health Canada, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Public Safety) to ensure ongoing supply of dairy products.
  • Reminding farmers of the need for business continuity plans, so that others can take care of their animals in the eventuality that a farmer or farm employee shows symptoms and needs to self-isolate.

4. This remains a fluid situation and the dairy industry will adapt its response or implement any additional preventative measures required by public health officials as necessary as the full impact of the outbreak becomes known.

We recognize that in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, consumers have a variety of questions about milk and dairy products. Please find information and answers to some of the most common questions below.

Canadian milk is safe to drink.

In Canada, dairy farmers already follow a rigid, well-documented set of practices and procedures every single day to ensure the safety of the Canadian milk supply. Milk is pasteurized, tested regularly, and handled and transported with very specific protocols. Consumers can rely on the quality of our milk because there are strict regulations in place and the dairy industry’s mandatory proAction program prescribes robust requirements, particularly with regards to food safety, milk quality, biosecurity, and traceability.

These aren’t extraordinary measures: it’s a set of standards Canadian farmers uphold every single day.

Yes. According to Health Canada, unopened milk can be frozen up to six weeks. Make sure your freezer is set at -18 °C (0 °F) or lower and freeze before the ‘best-before’ date. Freeze it in the original packaging. You may notice the milk separates when you freeze it; don’t worry that’s normal. Once you’re ready to use the milk, let it thaw completely in the refrigerator. Give it a quick shake before opening. While freezing suspends the spoilage process, it’s recommended that thawed milk be used as quickly as possible.

Firm, hard and processed cheeses, yogurt, as well as butter can be frozen too. The texture of cheese may change however, so you may prefer to use it in baking or cooking when you take it out of the freezer.

Please refer to the following guidelines from Health Canada:

Dairy productsRefrigerator at 4 °C (40 °F) or lowerFreezer at - 18 °C (0 °F) or lower
Un-opened milkBest before date6 weeks
Opened milk3 daysDon't freeze
Un-opened cottage cheeseBest before dateDoesn't freeze well
Opened cottage cheese3 daysDon't freeze
Un-opened yogurtBest before date1-2 months
Opened yogurt3 daysDon't freeze
Soft cheese1 weekDoesn't freeze well
Semi-soft cheese2-3 weeks8 weeks
Firm cheese5 weeks3 months
Hard cheese10 months1 year
Processed cheese5 months3 months
Un-opened salted butter8 weeks1 year
Un-opened unsalted butter8 weeks3 months
Opened butter3 weeksDon't freeze

Please refer to the following guidelines from Health Canada:

As the full impact of the outbreak became known, there was a rush on many common grocery products as consumers stocked up on emergency supplies. Any shortages on dairy products were isolated and temporary – we are continuing to produce milk and dairy as usual.

We encourage Canadians to not hoard groceries unnecessarily and to share with those less fortunate. Given the uncertain economic impact of the outbreak, many food banks have appealed for assistance and we encourage Canadians to support them and other community organizations if it is in their means to do so.

We have a strong food distribution system in Canada, so any shortage you may have experienced lately should be fixed now, and we expect that, as demand normalizes, so will the stocks on the shelves. Still, measures are being taken throughout the value chain to ensure consumers continue to have access to the dairy products they know and love in these uncertain times. Milk and milk products are staples in millions of Canadian homes, and we’re doing everything we can to make sure that remains the case.

In accordance with recommendations from public health authorities, farmers are limiting human-to-human contact to prevent transmission of the virus. Measures include implementing social distancing by cancelling or postponing non-urgent farm visits and staying two metres away from truck drivers, veterinarians, feed deliverers, technicians and other service providers.

Farmers have been advised to follow the same advice given by public health authorities to all Canadians by self-isolating if they are showing symptoms.

Even in the event a farmer falls ill, the dairy industry is committed to upholding the same high standards of animal care we uphold every day. Most farmers have business continuity plans that identify alternate sources of help on the farm – otherwise they would never be able to take a vacation!

There are various options available to help farmers in the event they are not in a position to do daily farm chores and take care of animals. At the national level, the Canadian Agricultural Human Resources Council also has a series of resources in place to assist farmers.

According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus that was discovered in 2019. COVID-19 is different from the bovine coronavirus. Bovine coronavirus does not infect humans. A vaccine is available for cattle for bovine coronavirus. There is no evidence of COVID-19 circulating in livestock or other animals or other animals in Canada.

No. According to both Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, there is no evidence to suggest that food is a source or route of transmission of the COVID-19 virus. This virus spreads via human-to-human contact and via human contact with contaminated surfaces which is why it is very important to follow public health recommendations regarding proper hygiene.

The food industry has implemented social distancing practices and continues to have good practices in cleaning & disinfecting all equipment regularly – this is consistent with public health recommendations to limit risks to humans working in the food industry.

Scientists and food safety authorities across Canada and around the world are closely monitoring the spread of COVID-19. If we become aware of a potential food safety risk, appropriate actions will be taken to ensure the safety of Canada’s food supply.

No. According to Dietitians of Canada: “Simply put, you cannot “boost” your immune system through diet and no specific food, supplement or natural health product will prevent you from catching COVID-19. […] There are many nutrients that are involved with the normal functioning of the immune system and therefore we encourage eating a variety of healthy foods each day in order to support immune function.”

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, the best way to protect against COVID-19 is by following proper hygiene and following the advice of public health officials. For more information, visit the Public Health Agency of Canada website.

To date, the Government of Canada has not approved any product to prevent, treat or cure COVID-19. Selling unauthorized health products or making false or misleading claims to prevent, treat or cure COVID-19 is illegal in Canada and the government is taking action to stop this kind of activity. More information can be found here.

There is no solid evidence to support the notion that milk consumption causes an increase in the production of mucus. Studies have shown that drinking cow’s milk does not cause or increase the production of mucus in the airways. Drinking milk sometimes leads to sensations of ‘‘coating of the throat’’ or ‘‘thicker saliva,’’ but these are sensations that are due to the viscosity and velvety texture of milk rather than increased production of mucus.