16may raw milk
25 May 2016

Illnesses lead to raw milk regulation

From November, raw milk sellers must be registered.

Foodborne illness outbreaks linked to raw milk have led to new regulations which put more food safety rules around the production, sale and labelling of the product. From November, consumers will only be able to buy milk from farmers registered by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

Raw milk is not pasteurised (heat treated), which means it misses an important process that kills harmful bacteria, such as campylobacter, listeria, and toxin-producing strains of e.coli.

In 2014, raw milk was associated with 10 foodborne illness outbreaks in New Zealand that affected 41 people. Nine of the outbreaks involved children under 15 years old and two children developed a severe complication that may lead to kidney failure. In 2015, raw milk was associated with 13 people getting sick. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported unpasteurised milk is 150 times more likely to make you sick than pasteurised milk.

MPI says there’s no way of knowing if your raw milk contains harmful bugs – you can’t see, taste or smell them. Getting sick from these bugs can result in diarrhoea, stomach cramps and vomiting. Severe cases can also lead to kidney failure, and even death. Babies, young children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with a weakened immune system are more at risk.

As well as being registered farmers must be verified by MPI, test milk for pathogens, keep sales records, and have appropriate labelling. There are no limits around the amount of raw milk that can be sold but it can only be sold directly from the farm gate or by home delivery – you won’t be able to pick up your milk from a collection point such as the local health food shop. Customers will also need to supply their contact details to the farmer so they can be reached if a batch of milk fails bacteria testing.

We’re looking into raw milk and we’d like to hear from people who drink, or used to drink, raw milk. Why do you drink it? Do you heat it to kill bacteria before you drink it? Have you or your family gotten sick from drinking raw milk? Email belinda@consumer.org.nz with your comments.

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