“A major London department store is giving consumers the chance to buy unpasteurised milk, despite the government food watchdog’s claim that the move is illegal on public health grounds.
The milk, known as raw milk, is banned from mainstream sale in England, Scotland and Wales. Its distribution is so tightly regulated that supermarkets and mainstream retailers are not allowed to stock it, although it can be sold directly by producers.
But the growing number of raw milk devotees are now able to buy it fresh from a vending machine in Selfridges food hall in London’s west end.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) said the move was in contravention of food hygiene regulations designed to protect consumer health, and released a statement saying “discussions are still ongoing”.
Raw milk dispensers are hugely popular on the continent, allowing customers to top up their own glass bottles. But the FSA says it may contain bacteria “such as salmonella and E coli that can cause illness”.
It said it had informed Westminster City Council, which deals with the day-to-day enforcement of food safety and public health protection in its area, of the position and that it believed this had been passed on to Selfridges.
Selfridges said Westminster City Council knew it was selling the milk and claimed it had regulatory approval because the sales will be handled by a concession run by Longleys Farm, an established dairy farm.
The bottles carry a health warning demanded by the FSA which reads: “This organically produced raw milk has not been heat treated and may therefore contain organisms harmful to health”.
Steve Hook of Longleys Farm, based in Hailsham, East Sussex, said he had been selling raw milk since 2007. “We pay fantastic attention to hygiene to ensure the strict bacteria tests conducted on the milk by the FSA are easily met,” he said.
“Our milk is regularly analysed, and our milking plant regularly inspected, to ensure that the cleanest milk is produced. In this way all the benefits of the good bacteria in the milk are kept, without having any of the problems associated with bad.”