Raw milk – why it is an issue?

So why is raw milk the big food safety issue right now? With the potential death of a young child and possible illness of several others due to drinking raw milk, all health authorities in Australia are discussing what can, and should, be done to prevent a recurrence.

Although raw milk is not permitted to be sold for human consumption in Australia, it is allowed to be sold for bathing and other cosmetic purposes.

Raw milk contains a lot of naturally occurring bacteria, many of which are harmful to humans when consumed. It is a recognised worldwide source of food poisoning from bacteria like; Listeria, Salmonella and E.coli.

To ensure that milk is safe for human consumption, it must be put through a heat process called Pasteurisation. This process heats the milk up rapidly to a temperature that will kill the vast majority of bacteria present, held for a set time period and then quickly cooled down to slow the growth of any remaining bacteria.

It is then kept below 5°C to slow bacterial growth. The product then has a use by date, after which the amount of bacteria in the milk will make it unsafe for consumption as long as it is kept below the important 5°C. This is the approximate 10 days of shelf life to the milk.

As raw milk does not undergo this process, there is no step used to kill the dangerous bacteria. This means that the bacteria will continue to grow slowly in the fridge and fairly quickly get to a level that will make people very sick if it is consumed.

So, this is why raw milk is not permitted to be sold for human consumption in this country. It must be clearly labelled as “Raw Milk” and show that it has not been pasteurised and not for consumption. It should not be drunk by anyone, and especially anyone in the high risk groups. The problem is that to a child it will look just like drinking pasteurised milk in the same bottle style and with labels in the same places. The child who cannot read, will not be able to tell the two types of milk apart.

Some people believe that Raw Milk is good for your health, but there has been little scientific support of this. The only real benefit is that the large amount of bacteria in raw milk will force the body’s immune system to work harder and this will make it stronger, but it absolutely is not worth the risk of consuming such dangerous bacteria.

Authorities are meeting across the country to determine if the practice of allowing raw milk to be sold for bathing etc is even to be continued, as there is such a risk for children.

This is really a watch this space situation as we wait to find out what the health authorities across Australia decide.

For more information about food poisoning and how it can be prevented to protect your business or community group, why not contact me  on 07 55443220 or at anyi@howsafeisyourfood.com.au to discuss a tailored food safety training session.

Written by Rachelle Williams, The Green Food Safety Coach.

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