By Rick Pendrous
Food experts have called for more evidence before they can consider revising the advice they offer on the safety of unpasteurized or raw milk cheese.
Following a recent presentation to the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF) on the results of a project into the survival of Mycobaterium bovis (M.bovis) in unpasteurized Cheddar and Caerphilly undertaken by researchers at Queen’s University Belfast, members of the committee said more information was required before they could consider making any changes.
Based on ACMSF risk assessments, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) currently advises vulnerable groups such as the young, sick, elderly and pregnant women to avoid consuming unpasteurized dairy products.
Pasteurisation of milk at 72°C for 15 seconds kills M.bovis and other pathogens, such as salmonella and E.coli, provided it is properly carried out.
Although unpasteurized cheese must be made from milk from herds that are shown to be free from infection, there is some evidence that the cheesemaking process for unpasteurized cheeses kills off M.bovis: a potentially dangerous bacterium associated with tuberculosis in cattle, which is on the rise across the UK cattle herd. In light of this rise, the FSA had called on the ACMSF to review its advice on risk associated with the consumption of unpasteurized milk and cheese.
Recent calls by Dairy UK which represents the UK’s milk supply chain for a complete ban on the sale of unpasteurized milk have raised fears among specialist cheesemakers that the safety of unpasteurized cheese would be next to be called into question, even though Dairy UK is not calling for a ban on the sale of unpasteurized cheese.
However, the results of the Queen’s University studies were felt by ACMSF to be inconclusive, which has disappointed producers of unpasteurized cheese. They had hoped the body would support their argument for the safety of their product.
ACMSF chair Professor Sarah O’Brien said: “The risk has changed but from what to what is difficult to assess.”
Source: Dairy Reporter