The risks of drinking raw milk: What farmers need to know

In December, the news of the tragic death of a child possibly linked to drinking raw milk, saddened the dairy industry and underscored the message that consumers should only drink pasteurised milk.

“Farmers, familiar with their cows and own farm hygiene practises, are known to drink fresh milk directly from their dairy but the law is very clear that the packaging, transport and selling of raw, unpasteurised milk for human consumption is illegal,” says Helen Dornom Sustainability Manager for Dairy Australia.

“Milk is a highly regulated biological product in part because of the potential growth of pathogens during storage and transport. It is important to reemphasise that unpasteurised milk can never be consumed without real risks,” she adds.

“As farmers and representatives of the industry we have to be careful not to give the impression that something a farmer might do on-farm and fully aware of the risks can safely translate to the broader community.

Unpasteurised milk has been bottled and sold as cosmetic products (labelled ‘bath milk’, ‘for cosmetic purposes only’ or ‘not for human consumption’). While the sale of these products is not illegal, consumption of the product can present a serious risk to the consumer’s health.

“The fact is that cosmetic or ‘bath milk’ is not produced under the strict standards or supervision applied to the dairy food industry and without the additional critical controls provided by pasteurisation or equivalent treatments. It may contain pathogenic bacteria that can lead to life-threatening illnesses,” says Ms Dornom.

“Everyone is vulnerable to illness caused by organisms that may be present in raw milk, but the risks are even greater for young children and for people who are elderly or those who have underlying health problems, are Immune compromised or are pregnant.”

The Australian dairy industry has a well-earned reputation for safe dairy products – let’s not jeopardise this and ensure consumers only drink pasteurised milk.

For more information about raw milk, click here.

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