From today you can only buy raw unpasteurised milk from a farmer registered by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). Farmers can only sell raw milk directly from the farm gate or by providing a home delivery service. You are no longer able to collect your raw milk from collection points, such as your local health food store.

Raw milk isn’t pasteurised (heat treated), which means it misses a process that kills harmful bacteria, such as campylobacter, listeria and shiga toxin-producing strains of e.coli. Getting sick from these bacteria can result in diarrhoea, stomach cramps and vomiting. Severe cases can lead to kidney failure, and even death.

The new regulations put more food safety rules around the production, sale and labelling of raw milk for sale to consumers. As at 31 October, there were 12 registered producers — eight in the North Island and four in the South Island. No depot operators that can legally hold raw milk prior to delivery have been registered.

Raw Milk Producers Association of New Zealand chairman Mark Houston says some producers are struggling to work out how they will manage the new regulations. These producers predominately sold to collection points. “Essentially it comes down to economics. Many farms are 20 to 30 kilometres out of town so it’s not feasible to deliver to individual houses without the price of the milk going through the roof,” he says.

However, the association, which represents 35 producers, supports the new regulations. “It’s important to manage the quality of the milk to protect the industry and consumers. Producers will now have to test their milk and the association has asked MPI to collect and collate test results to determine whether the new regulations have been successful in managing the food safety risks,” Mr Houston says.

Tips for reducing your risk of getting sick from raw drinking milk

  • Heat it until just boiling or at 70°C for one minute before drinking it. This will kill harmful bacteria.
  • Keep it in the coldest part of your fridge (usually the lower shelves) and make sure your fridge is 4°C or colder.
  • If raw milk has been out of the fridge for longer than two hours, throw it out.
  • If you are serving raw milk to friends or visitors, let them know and advise them of the risks.
  • Make sure you drink the milk before its use-by date.
  • If you’re using reusable containers to collect your raw milk, make sure they are clean and dry.
  • Don’t give raw milk to young people, the elderly, pregnant women or people with compromised immunity.
  • Make sure you provide contact details to the farmer so you can be reached if milk testing identifies problems.

For a list of registered raw milk producers and depot operators visit mpi.govt.nz.