Two recalls of raw milk to date this year has prompted a reminder from the Ministry for Primary Industries that raw milk is a “high risk food”.

Dr Paul Dansted, the Ministry of Primary Industry’s (MPI)  Director Animal & Animal Products, said it was important that consumers remember and understand that there are risks with drinking raw milk.

Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurised (heat treated) to kill harmful bacteria such as Campylobacter, Listeria and toxic-producing strains of E. coli (STECs) that are potentially present in the milk.

To date this year there have been two recalls of raw milk products – several batches from a North Island-based vending machine provider and several batches from a Southland provider.  Both times the batches of bottled raw milk were potentially contaminated with Campylobacter.  For the whole of last year there were only two recalls of raw milk products out of a total of 53 recalled food products listed on the Food Safety section of the Ministry’s website

In 2014, MPI put in place new rules which mean farmers selling raw milk need to meet food safety requirements but consumers still need to take care when drinking raw milk.

“Some people who drink raw milk may not always fully understand the risks and don’t realise that there is the possibility of getting sick from the harmful bacteria in the milk.”

“Pregnant women, young children (particularly babies), the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems should not drink raw milk as they are at greatest risk of getting sick and the consequences for them can be more severe, and in some cases can lead to death,” said Dansted.

“No matter how carefully the animals are milked, there is always a risk that harmful bacteria can get into the milk. There is no way of telling by taste, sight or smell if the milk you are drinking contains harmful bacteria, so we recommend that people heat their raw milk until just boiling (or to 70°C for one minute) before drinking it.”

Keeping raw milk refrigerated (4°C or less) also reduces the risk of any harmful bacteria in the milk growing to levels which make people sick when they drink it. People should discard the milk if it has been left out of the fridge for 2 hours or more and drink it by its use by date.

“People who choose to drink raw milk should make sure they are getting their milk directly from the farmer and are only buying it for personal and household consumption.”

More information on raw milk and food safety can be found on MPI’s website, or viewing this video.

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