Raw milk proposal hard to swallow

A Timaru woman fears her days of drinking raw milk could be over as the Government calls for feedback on sale of the product.

The Agriculture and Forestry Ministry is reviewing the requirements that allow for the sale of raw, or "untreated", drinking milk from the farm gate.

Timaru raw milk supplier Rachel Tomkinson received a letter from MAF this week, informing her of three proposed options: maintaining the status quo; making limited amendments to conditions of sale while retaining the requirement for a risk management programme; or MAF's preferred option of making limited changes to conditions of sale and exempting farmers from a RMP for farmgate sales, but still requiring them to meet some animal health and hygiene standards. They would also have to keep records of sales.

Mrs Tomkinson believes the move could bring an end to what was already a limited availability of raw milk, which she consumes on a regular basis.

However, Food Safety Minister Kate Wilkinson said the sale of small quantities of raw milk direct to people at the farm gate was a long-standing tradition and there was support for that to continue.

Currently up to five litres of raw drinking milk can be sold direct from the farmer to consumers on the dairy farm each day under the Food Act 1981. People who buy the milk can give it to their family.

Mrs Tomkinson said supplying raw milk from her natural food shop under today's rules was difficult but possible. People are not allowed to buy raw milk from a shop but, as Mrs Tomkinson does not make money from it, she has been able to supply it.

"Now they are [trying] to make the law very strict," she said.

People whom she supplies the milk to must sign an agreement declaration issued by the farmer, which highlights key points including that the product must be refrigerated, consumed or discarded within its expiry date. It also states that the purchaser must not sell produce to a third party.

Mrs Tomkinson said she was disappointed raw milk had become an issue when cigarettes and alcohol could do more harm, but could still be bought.

Ms Wilkinson said it was important to remember raw milk could contain organisms that could make people sick. Submissions close on December 5.

The Timaru Herald