Consumers getting a raw deal about raw milk

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“Repeated misinformation about the safety of raw milk and the fact it is limited to farm gate sales, which gives limited access to city dwellers, is giving the consumer a raw deal” says Debbie Swanwick Spokesperson for Soil & Health – Organic NZ.

The sale of raw milk has been permitted in New Zealand for several decades. Section 11a of the Food Act 1981 allows for people to purchase 5 litres daily of raw milk who intend to consume it themselves or provide it to their families.

“Raw milk is harvested under an approved Risk Management Programme under the Animal Products Act 1999 and NZ herds are TB tested. Sales would be totally prohibited if there any were issues around its safety” says Swanwick.

Some city dwellers have overcome access to raw milk by developing ‘raw milk clubs’ which are on the increase, but despite consumer demand, the latest reforms propose  that they will be shut down.

A new initiative could ease issues of access to raw milk for this demographic. Mark and Phillipa Houston imported an automatic milk dispenser from Italy and have begun selling raw milk from their farm in Clifton.  In Italy, unlike New Zealand, it is legal to sell raw milk to city dwellers.  Their story is detailed in this month’s issue of Organic NZ. The Houstons used to supply Fonterra from their farm in South Canterbury before downsizing.

Despite recurring dialogue from government agencies about the safety of raw milk The Health Research Council (a government agency) funded a $1.2 million, three year study last year to ascertain if unpasteurised milk helps the body develop an immune response. Prior studies of farmers children who drink raw milk has proven that there is an increased protection against asthma and other allergies. One in four New Zealand children have asthma.

Histamines are a by-product of the process of pasteurisation which  kills bacteria.  They are not found in raw milk. Many asthmatics find that when raw milk is drunk regularly, they have no or few asthma attacks.

In October 2011 a consultation document on raw milk reforms, produced by the Ministry of Primary Industries, received 1670 submissions from stakeholders. “Unfortunately the fact that city dwellers don’t have access to raw milk and there is a limited number of raw milk consumers stifles a healthy debate on the issue from a good cross-section of the country” says Swanwick.

New Zealand supermarkets sell more than 1.7 billion litres of pasteurized and homogenized milk every year.

“By regulating raw milk sales government seems to be  choosing to protect the interests of corporate profits rather than enabling consumer choice.  City dwellers in ‘raw milk clubs’ recognize the value of raw milk both with additional health benefits and also with the cost (typically half that of commercially sold milk) which is why they go to great  lengths to purchase it” says Swanwick.

MPI is still undertaking a detailed analysis of all submissions and the policy options, and is formulating advice for the Minister for Food Safety.

Soil & Health – Organic NZ promote GE free, organic, fresh and healthy food.Oranga Nuku, Oranga Kai Oranga Tangata.