Raw milk devotees unfazed by campylobacter

NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 05:00 31/03/2014

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An outbreak of campylobacter in a batch of raw milk is not keeping fans of the controversial product away from the farm gate.

The Timaru franchise of Village Milk was shut down after tests found the disease-carrying bacteria was present in a batch of raw milk sold on March 7 and 8.

Franchise owners Stu and Andrea Weir, who began selling raw milk from their farm only last month, admitted they let their customers down by failing to treat the milk properly.

Other suppliers around the South Island insist raw milk is safe to consume as long as it is handled correctly - just like any other food product.

Jody Cudmore, who runs Greymouth's Village Milk franchise with her husband Colin, said she was disappointed to hear of the Timaru incident.

"It's taken a long time for people to get their head around the idea [of raw milk] and for something like this to happen so fresh into the industry is a shame, she said.

"Colin and I know that we've followed the correct procedures with our milk and we feel quite confident that we're doing the right thing."

The Cudmores had been selling raw milk from their West Coast farm for about six months and it now made up the bulk of their income.

"We've prided ourselves on having quality milk. We know we've done everything in our power to make it safe."

Suzanne Pickford had not sold raw milk from her West Melton property for about seven months, but said she was still getting requests for the product.

"There's definitely demand. People think that they would like it."

Rachel Burgess said she and her partner, David Lister, had been selling raw milk from their Temuka farm for about three years and drank it regularly.

"I was officially lactose intolerant but I can drink raw milk with no problem. That's how we got into it."

Burgess said raw milk was a product that needed "careful attention", but felt educating people about the proper processes would help ensure there were no issues.

"We are aware it needs to be treated carefully and we have never let our guard down."

However, the Ministry of Health (MoH) and the Ministry for Primary Industries warn that consuming raw milk could be risky as it could contain disease-carrying bacteria that could lead to gastroenteritis or other illnesses.

Data from the MoH showed there had been five disease outbreaks from raw milk consumption between 2007 and 2009, and 16 outbreaks between 2010 and 2012.

Under New Zealand legislation, farmers can sell a maximum of five litres a day to one person.

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- The Press

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