“Those of us who choose to drink ”raw’’ milk are a tiny minority – barely more than 100,000 – so why is time and money being wasted trying to stop us?
The latest attempt is launched by Dairy UK, the association representing the producers and processors of 85 per cent of the milk sold in Britain. Dairy UK has demanded that the Food Standards Agency (FSA) ban the sale of unpasteurised milk, citing food safety and the “safe image of dairy products”.
This is baffling. If there were widespread and regular food poisoning outbreaks linked directly to drinking raw milk, then the industry as a whole would undoubtedly suffer, and the eccentrics who insist on milk au naturel ought, probably, to be saved from themselves.
But according to FSA figures, not one outbreak has been reported since 2002. Before that, the FSA says, illness due to unpasteurised milk accounted for a ”small proportion’’ of the total number of food-borne outbreaks between 1992 and 2002. I think we can say that raw milk has become a safer, not riskier, product over the intervening years.
I prefer to drink raw milk because I believe it to be more wholesome than standardised, homogenised, pasteurised milk. It can only be obtained direct from one of the 104 farms in England and Wales that are licensed to sell it. Each farm is regularly inspected, at the farmer’s expense, by both local and national authorities. Cattle are rigorously checked for disease, including TB. I would argue that dedicated raw milk producers pay more attention to hygiene than those who rely on the safety net of pasteurisation.
The label on a bottle or carton of raw milk carries a lengthy and strongly worded warning that ”This milk has not been treated and may therefore contain organisms harmful to health.’’ No one is forced to drink it, and it is good form to tell someone when unpasteurised milk has been used or is being offered.
Given all this, and the fact that, sensibly, the FSA appears to be making no attempt to bend to Dairy UK’s demand, why seek a ban at all? It is well known that the British dairy industry is in crisis, but that is largely due to the low prices being paid for milk. Scaremongering – and that is what I believe this to be – is a misguided and cack-handed attempt to enhance the industry’s image and impress retailers and consumers. But it is a futile exercise when the truth is that raw milk is as safe as pasteurised, if not more so. Having been brought up on the stuff, I am more than happy to feed it to my family – and to raise a glass to its future….”