MPI investigation clears Village Milk Timaru

MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD
Last updated 15:10 30/04/2014

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A Timaru raw milk seller has been cleared of wrongdoing in the wake of a campylobacter scare.

Ministry for Primary Industries spokesman Gary Orr confirmed its investigation into Village Milk Timaru wrapped up last week.

''We found it was complying with its requirements under the Food Act, so no further action was taken,'' Orr said.

''There will always be some level of food safety risk with raw milk, even when stringent control measures are followed, as there is no process to kill all the bacteria that cause illness.''

Village Milk Timaru closed its doors from March 26 to April 10 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.

Village Milk Timaru's franchise co-owner Stu Weir thanked the public for its support during a difficult period.

''We really appreciate all the customers who stuck by us. It's a lesson for us, and we will make sure our practices remain up to date and all the right systems are in place,'' Weir 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.

South Canterbury medical officer of health Dr Daniel Williams has said the confirmed cases would have been the ''tip of the iceberg'', as many of those affected would have not visited the doctor.

Orr said MPI's investigations could not pinpoint the source of the campylobacter outbreak.

He advised raw milk consumers to heat the milk to 70 degrees Celsius for a minute to reduce the risk of bacteria.

Dr Williams said campylobacter existed in the gut lines of up to 20 per cent of cows and the only way to ensure raw milk was safe was to heat it.

''The pasteurisation process has served us well for nearly 150 years and has prevented bacteria outbreaks,'' he said.

SOUTH CANTERBURY HERALD

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- The Timaru Herald

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