All clear for Timaru raw milk sales to resume

MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD
Last updated 06:40 10/04/2014

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Village Milk Timaru will resume selling its raw milk today after a "clean run" of testing.

The company shut its doors on March 26 after Community and Public Health confirmed seven cases of people contracting campylobacter were linked to the raw milk purchased from the business on March 7 and 8.

"We have had a clean run of at least five consecutive days. That gives us enough confidence to resume our operations in Timaru," chief executive Mark Houston said.

"It's a product that needs to be well monitored. Rather than hiding under a bushel, we can't be frightened to shut operations down if there's something wrong."

The company has been testing the raw milk daily since March 14.

"We will continue to test the product every day," Houston said.

"We thank our customers for their support, and we are sorry for those who were affected."

He said the company simply did not know the cause of the outbreak.

"We don't want to speculate or point fingers.

"We understand South Canterbury is a bit of a haven for campylobacter."

South Canterbury medical officer of health Dr Daniel Williams said the reported cases could have been "the tip of the iceberg".

"Raw milk is a risky product. There could have been dozens affected who decided not to go to a doctor," he said.

Williams said "city people" who purchased raw milk were more likely to be at risk.

"People who have consumed raw milk on farms all their life could have developed immunity to it," he said.

Campylobacter is the most common food-borne illness in New Zealand, with symptoms including diarrhoea, abdominal pain and fever within two to five days of being exposed to the organism.

Ministry for Primary Industries spokesman Jim Flack confirmed investigations were ongoing.

Village Milk's pasteurised milk was unaffected by the campylobacter scare and is still being sold via Fonterra.

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- The Timaru Herald

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