This article in the on-line Specialist Food Magazine about selling raw milk caught my eye.
It may affect would be home cheese makers who want to make cheese from raw milk or people who consciously choose to buy raw milk. The stance taken by the FSA (Food Standards Agency) is that ‘unpasteurised cows’ milk can only be sold direct to consumers from farms or direct from the farmer‘.
My take on this is if you can buy clearly labelled raw milk from a farm, farmer or farmer’s market, then why can you not buy the same product from a third party like Selfridges – see the end for my thoughts.
The Food Standards Agency is taking Selfridges to court for selling unpasteurised milk at its flagship store. The case refers back to when the food hall installed vending machines which sold raw milk supplied by Stephen Hook, a Sussex dairy farmer, in December 2011. They will be charged for putting public health at risk by breaching hygiene regulations.
The FSA said in a statement, “Summons have been served to both parties and a hearing date has been set for 6th February at Westminster magistrates court. The Food Standards Agency has confirmed its intention to prosecute Selfridges Retail Limited and the farmer who supplied the company with raw drinking cow milk for sale, Stephen Hook, for breaches of food hygiene regulations.
“The decision follows a detailed investigation, after vending machines dispensing raw cow milk were installed at Selfridges, in 2011. The FSA will consider taking action where it has evidence that regulations have been breached.”
Selfridges said it did not believe the move was illegal in 2012. Ewan Venters, who was the food director at the time, commented, “We have always supported unique products like raw milk. We see ourselves, like many farmers’ markets, as a platform to launch a variety of choice for our customers to enjoy.”
Mr Hook, owner of Hook & Son, who has been selling raw milk since 2007, said, “The benefits of raw milk are huge. We’ve had customers that suffer from eczema, asthma and other allergies, which have all cleared up after drinking unpasteurised milk. It lowers bad and raises good cholesterols and fights infection.
“Roughly 80% of lactose intolerant people can drink it as it has enzymes in that can digest lactose milk sugar. We’ve got all sort of people who love our milk, including
nutritionists, bodybuilders and a lot of ethnic groups, because that’s what they grew up with and enjoy the most.”
Bradley Smythe, spokesman for the FSA
“There is an inherent food safety risk associated with drinking raw milk because germs normally killed by pasteurisation may be present. The germs which pose the most risk are those associated with faecal contamination like E.coli and Salmonella, and tuberculosis is also a risk. The sale of raw milk is therefore strictly controlled – older people, infants and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to food poisoning, so we advise them not to drink it.
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.”
My thoughts: the FSA state that it is not illegal to buy unpasteurised cow’s milk – but only from farms or direct from the farmer or farmer’s markets, so why is it illegal to buy the same milk from a third party as in a shop like Selfridges? Selling raw milk at a farmer’s market is ok, but selling through Selfridges is not? This seems to me to be arrant nonsense.
Why does the nanny state feel they should intervene to prevent people from seeking out a legally labelled product they obviously want to buy and who must be aware of the risks. The bottles are very clearly marked ‘Raw Organic Milk’. What more do they have to say? By the way, I love the bottle and the design: very stylish!
Are the public really that stupid they do not know what raw milk is? The health benefits alone are outlined above by Mr Hook and I know from experience in cheese making classes that many of our attendees want to buy raw milk to make cheese at home.
When I worked in the shop, virtually every pregnant woman who came in asked if the cheese was pasteurised. And again, I think this is a ridiculous viewpoint: we test each and every batch of cheese we make for Staph A, E Coli, Listeria and Salmonella. We also make unpasteurised cheese. We would not dream of selling any cheese, pasteurised or not if it came back with a positive lab result – so why are unpasteurised cheeses (and milk) singled out as being unsafe for pregnant women, older people and the young when they have negative lab results and are as safe to eat as our pasteurised cheese?
Let us not underestimate dairy farmers: I know from experience that dairy cow, goat and sheep milk farmers tend to run their farms extremely well and take animal and dairy hygiene very seriously. We are not alone in this practice: our milk suppliers sign a technical spec setting out the bacterial parameters for the milk they deliver to us. We had a recent case of a goat farmer, with whom we no longer deal who tried to sell us raw milk with unacceptably high levels of yeasts, but that is another story.
Dairy farmers are subject to milk tests from the likes of their EHO and many of their larger customers. The farmers themselves test their milk and I believe it is extremely unlikely that they would release milk for sale with dangerous levels of anything nasty. Good hygiene usually reduces the risk of poor quality milk to very low levels. Please do not forget that not all raw milk is contaminated with dangerous pathogens.
It is a well known fact that the pasteurisation process reduces dangerous bacteria to acceptable levels, if they are indeed present; why do the FSA feel that consumers are so stupid that they may be unaware of the content of raw milk or that ‘dangerous’ milk is sold anyway.
It is about time someone stood up to the FSA over something as illogical as this and I wish Hook & Son and Selfridges all the best in fighting this ridiculous dictum.