The Board of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) will decide next week whether the FSA should review the current rules governing the sale and marketing of unpasteurised, or raw, drinking milk and cream. This follows developments in the sale of raw milk which have seen producers using new routes of sale for their products, such as the internet and vending machines.
An outline of the current controls and possible approaches to managing the risks associated with raw milk and cream has been published today and will be considered by the FSA Board at its next meeting on 20 March.
Most milk and cream on sale in the UK is heat-treated to kill any harmful bacteria or virus that could be present. However, restricted sales of raw drinking milk and cream are allowed in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
There is an inherent food safety risk associated with drinking raw milk because germs normally killed by pasteurisation may be present. The sale of raw milk is therefore strictly controlled. Older people, infants and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to food poisoning, so are advised not drink it.
The FSA Board will be asked to approve a review of the current controls. The review process will include consultation with industry and consumer groups.
Background to the rules
Currently in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, unpasteurised cows’ milk can only be sold direct to consumers from farms or direct from the farmer. This includes routes such as farmers’ markets and milk rounds, or as part of a farm catering operation. The sale of raw milk is not allowed in Scotland.
Raw milk must be labelled to let consumers know that it has not been pasteurised and may contain organisms harmful to health. Farms selling raw cows’ drinking milk direct to consumers are also inspected more frequently than businesses producing all pasteurised milk.
Cheeses made with unpasteurised milk, are more widely available for sale, and must be labelled as being ‘made with raw milk’ or ‘made with unpasteurised milk’. Cheese is subject to production processes which should reduce the risk from pathogens, these processes include salting, acidification and maturation.
Board meeting agenda: 20 March 2012 Agenda and papers