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The history of IDF

The International Dairy Federation as we know it was founded 1903 in Brussels, Belgium at 1st International Dairy Congress.

Thanks to these francophone roots, IDF was initially known as Fédération Internationale de Laiterie. In 2012, that name was changed to Fédération Internationale du Lait. The original aims of the federation are much as they are today: to represent the dairy sector as a whole at international level by providing a global source of scientific expertise and knowledge in support of the development and promotion of quality milk and milk products so as to deliver consumers with nutrition, health and well-being.

The status of international organization was granted by Belgian Royal Decree, 5 Nov 1955. The present official constitution was adopted in October 2020, as registered in accordance with Belgian law.

IDF has contributed to the development of standards for the dairy sector since 1903, and has closely collaborated with Codex since its inception in 1963 to share its standards and expertise for milk and milk products, with safety and fair-trade practices at heart, along with other international organisations such as FAO, WHO, OIE and ISO.

Since the outset, IDF has helped countries to protect the health of consumers and ensure fair practices in the food trade by pro-actively contributing to the development of science-based, globally harmonised standards, guidelines, codes of practice and related methodologies, continually improving the regulatory environments of the dairy sector.

IDF’s strength has always been – and will continue to be – in building consensus, working together, and developing dairy standards that are grounded in science to enhance trust in dairy products and production.

Key events in IDF history

IDF has a long and distinguished history of serving the global dairy sector. From the beginning of our journey to the current day, our aims remain the same – to nourish the world with safe and sustainable dairy.


The IDF journey begins

The International Dairy Federation, created to develop standards on milk and dairy, is founded in Belgium at the 1st International Dairy Congress on 8-11 September 1903. Its General Secretariat opens in Brussels.

First IDF President is appointed

Baron L Peers de Nieuwburgh of Belgium, serving as President to the Federation until 1921


6th International Dairy Congress

Regular meetings occur prior to the outbreak of WWI, including the 6th International Dairy Congress in Bern, Switzerland on 8-10 June 1914 (pictured). Wartime puts a halt to events in subsequent years.


IDF welcomes a new President

Mr J. Maenhayt van Lemberge of Belgium (1921-1940)


International Dairy Congress resumes

With WWI over, IDF begins its global meetings again. The 7th IDF International Dairy Congress was held in the US. Pictured a programme from the 1931 International Dairy Congress held in Denmark.


16 IDF member countries sign the International Convention for Methods of Analysis for Cheeses

Reflecting an increasing global need to protect the integrity of dairy, as well as to protect consumers.


IDF appoints its first non-Belgian President

Prof. Dr R. Burri of Switzerland (1940 – 1950)


IDF enters into a formal consultative status with UN Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO)

Over the many years since then, IDF has maintained a close working relationship with FAO, established in 1945, in various fields of joint interest such as good dairy farming practices, animal health, hygiene and safety and dairy policies and economics, including several joint publications.


Adoption of IDF standard N°1

Having established itself as a leading expert in scientific methods for the dairy sector through its suite of International Conventions, IDF adopts IDF standard N°1, International Standard for the determination of fat in milk, by the Röse-Gottlieb method – the first of IDF’s many science-based globally harmonised standards, guidelines, codes of practice and related methodologies to continually improve regulatory environments for the dairy sector.

International organization status granted to IDF

The status of international organization is granted to IDF by Belgian Royal Decree, on 5 November 1955


Committee of Government Experts on the Code of Principles established

At the request of IDF, the Joint FAO/WHO Committee of Government Experts on the Code of Principles concerning Milk and Milk Products (predecessor of CCMMP, leading to GSUDT and dairy standards) is established (image shown from 1978)


First standards for cheese

IDF adopts its first standards for cheese, which will further be communicated to FAO


IDF begins its collaboration with ISO

IDF and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO – established in 1947) begin their longstanding collaboration to jointly develop and publish international standard methods for sampling and analysis for milk and milk products, which continues to this day.

First collaboration with Codex Alimentarius Commission

IDF has served as technical advisor to Codex since 1963, the year it was established.


Publication of the First Codex standard

For a dairy product was developed – Butter (CXS 279-1971 Formerly CODEX STAN A-1-1971), based on a proposal provided by IDF.


General Code of Hygienic Practice published

IDF publishes Bulletin 123 on General Code of Hygienic Practice for the Dairy Industry. This International Code provided guidance to countries in issuing their own regulations, in order to facilitate trade of safe dairy products. It would later be the base for the Codex text (2004).


The first IDF/ISO Analytical Week

An occasion for dairy scientists and professionals in the field of methods of analysis to meet and exchange on latest technical and technological findings, and the development of IDF/ISO international standards, held annually since 1998. Image shown from 2011 event.


New IDF governing bodies are created

Following the Strategic Review, new IDF governing bodies are created to align and guide IDF work – the Board of Directors and the Programme Coordination Committee (PCC) – along with the IDF working bodies – Standing Committees (SC) and Task Forces (TF). In 2007, the PCC changes its name to SPCC – Science and Programme Coordination Committee (SPCC).

World Dairy Summit

After almost 100 years and events around the world (and spanning two World Wars) IDF holds its first World Dairy Summit, which will ultimately replace IDF Annual Sessions and International Dairy Congresses. The IDF World Dairy Summit remains the world’s leading dairy event to this day (image from 2019 Summit, Istanbul)


IDF & ISO combine efforts

IDF and ISO agree to avoid duplication of efforts and fully harmonize the presentations of the IDF and ISO standard for methods of analysis. From this point on, a single version is published by both organizations, bearing the logos of both, and the ISO and IDF standard numbers.


100 years of IDF!

IDF celebrates this important event in IDF history on 9 September 2003 in Bruges, Belgium – the birthplace of IDF, and is joined by an important guest, patron of the IDF centenary in 2003, Albert II, King of Belgium. IDF publishes bulletin 387/2004 – The Dairy (R)evolution – 100 years change to mark the centenary.

IDF and OIE sign a formal agreement of cooperation

In May 2003, IDF and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) sign a formal agreement of cooperation to exchange knowledge and information on the dairy sector, veterinary research into diseases of milk producing species and aspects of animal health and zoonoses, animal welfare and food safety.


Publication of the first version of the Codex Code of Hygienic Practice for Milk and Milk Products

Publication of the first version of the Codex Code of Hygienic Practice for Milk and Milk Products, to apply the recommendations of the Recommended Code of Practice: General Principles of Food Hygiene to the particular case of milk and milk products, a vital document for the sector.


A common carbon footprint approach for the dairy sector

The IDF guide to standard life cycle assessment methodology is published, representing the first methodology for greenhouse gas (GHG) calculation in dairy production. A revised edition is published in 2015.


FAO LEAP Partnership was founded

IDF is a founding member of the FAO LEAP Partnership. Established in 2012 through a consultative process between FAO’s Animal Production and Health Division with three stakeholder groups (governments, private sector, and civil society) its overarching goal is to contribute to improved environmental performance of the livestock sector while considering social and economic viability.


FAO & IDF sign the Dairy Declaration of Rotterdam

FAO and IDF sign the Dairy Declaration of Rotterdam on 19th October during the IDF World Dairy Summit, confirming the commitment of global dairy community (1 billion people) to the sustainable development of the dairy sector, for the benefit of both people and the planet.

IDF appoints its first female President

Dr Judith Bryans becomes the first ever female president of the International Dairy Federation.


IDF releases update on dairy terms guidance

Globally recognized, the Codex General Standards for Dairy Terms provide an internationally accepted framework to protect the integrity of milk and milk products. IDF Bulletin 507/2020: The Codex General Standard for the Use of Dairy Terms – Its nature, intent, and implications helps interpret the detail.

COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic takes its toll across the globe, leaving no sector unscathed. Dairy’s place as a staple source of nutrition, whose traditions are deeply woven into societies all around the world, providing jobs and economic security for many families, is clear, as consumers around the globe turned to the comfort of the dairy foods they trust in these troubling times. IDF work to support the sector continues. To strengthen IDF’s ability to support and lead change during this difficult period, IDF initiates an extensive survey to gather data and learnings from the impact of COVID-19.


And beyond

IDF continues to respond to the dairy community’s expectations and requirements, looking to the future with strength, optimism, and an open mind, and knowing that the agility, creativity, and resilience of the dairy sector stands us in good stead.

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