National Dairy Shrine is recognizing four respected individuals this year with their Pioneer Award. An award honoring an individual’s significant contributions to the dairy industry, they join a distinguished group of industry leaders whose portraits are displayed at the National Dairy Hall of Fame at the National Dairy Shrine Museum in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin.
Among the Pioneer honorees in 2020 is Harold J. Barnum (1902-1981), a leading authority on milk sanitation and the inventor of the Whirl-Pak® sterilized sample collection and processing bag which transformed quality assurance systems in the dairy and food industry.
Born in Colorado, Harold Barnum earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture from the State College of the University of Montana (now Montana State University) where he majored in Dairy Manufacturing. He went on to get a Masters’ Degree in Dairy Husbandry from Michigan State University in 1929. Following graduation, for the next 26 years he served as Milk Sanitarian for the cities of Detroit and Ann Arbor, Michigan. In 1947, he became Chief of the Health and Hospitals, Milk Sanitation Division for the city and county of Denver, Colorado. Barnum retired from this position in 1969 but remained actively involved in promoting dairy sanitation all across the country.
Before the 1950s, milk was being delivered from farms to processing plants in “cans” where samples of the milk were then taken for testing purposes. With the advent of bulk milk tanks in the early 1950s, and the co-mingling of milk in large transport trucks, the identity of the milk was being lost when it left the farm. This resulted in milk plants having to send representatives out to each farm to collect milk samples for testing. Barnum began studying this problem in 1954. His vision and leadership led to the “Universal Sampling Procedure” in which the milk truck driver picked up the samples of milk at each farm for use in testing for butterfat, protein, Somatic Cell Count, sediment, added water, etc.
Glass bottles were used initially to collect these samples, but keeping the bottles sterilized and unbroken was a problem. In 1957, Barnum consulted with many authorities in the dairy field to ascertain if they could help him develop a single service, sterile container for milk sampling that would be inexpensive, non-breakable, and meet all the sanitary requirements. Barnum became the “driving force” behind the effort which eventually led to the development of the Whirl-Pak® Sampling Bag. “This revolutionized the entire industry!” says Arthur W. Nesbitt, retired CEO of Nasco International, the company that still markets the product. “This world class system significantly reduced costs for obtaining and transporting samples to testing laboratories. Whirl-Pak bags soon became the iconic, Universal Sampling System.” John Meyer, CEO of Holstein Association USA, says, “Today, the Whirl-Pak Bag is used by dairy farms, food and dairy food processors, hospitals, medical labs, water testing systems and veterinarians. Nasco’s Whirl Pak bags come in 100 different options providing the consumer an opportunity to choose the one for his special needs. Over 30% of Whirl Pak production is exported globally.” As Phil Niemeyer, another nominee supporter, states, “Anywhere a sterile container is needed for lab analysis you will find the product Harold helped design and promote.”
Barnum moved to Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, in 1973, where he worked as a consultant for Nasco on Whirl-Pak until his death in 1981. Whirl-Pak marked its 60th anniversary in 2019.
An accessory to Whirl-Pak that Barnum was instrumental in creating was the Nasco Milk Sampling Ice Chest that ensures that farm milk samples are maintained at a constant temperature from the farm to the laboratory. Almost every milk transport truck now has one of these ice chests in their truck.
Barnum was highly respected by his peers in milk sanitation, dairy foods and food quality assurance, and health departments. He was widely acknowledged as a national authority on milk sanitation. He was appointed to the committee that revised the U.S. Public Health Services Milk Code, and in 1962 led a nationwide study of milk standards and regulations. A leader and active member of many organizations in his sector, Barnum was president of the International Association of Milk, Food and Environmental Sanitarians in 1953. In 1957, he was recognized with that organization’s “Sanitarian of the Year” award. He served as secretary-treasurer of the Michigan Association of Milk Sanitarians for ten years and authored many articles and papers.
For more information about National Dairy Shrine, the banquet, or the students and dairy industry leaders being recognized this year, contact National Dairy Shrine’s office at [email protected] or visit their website.