News and Views

Raw milk conviction a sweet success for food safety

A woman has been fined a total of $28,000 and ordered to pay professional costs of $25,000 after she pleaded guilty to four charges relating to the sale of unpasteurised or ‘raw’ milk in Goulburn Local Court.

On Thursday 8 June 2017, Julia Ruth McKay from Bungonia on the southern tablelands was fined under section 104 of the Food Act 2003 for selling milk which was not pasteurised in contravention of Food Regulation 2010, and for conducting a food business without a licence as required by the Regulation.

She also pleaded guilty to two charges under section 21 of the Act for selling unpasteurised milk that exceeded acceptable microbiological limits for standard plate counts and Listeria.

NSW Food Authority CEO Dr Lisa Szabo said Food Authority officers found that Ms McKay was operating a ‘herd sharing’ business whereby a person enters into a contract and purchase shares in a herd or individual cow and consequently receives raw milk produced by that herd.

“Claims that this doesn’t constitute the sale of food are false, the operation of a herd share arrangement can constitute food for sale under the Food Act,” Dr Szabo said.

“Milk for sale in NSW needs to be licensed with the NSW Food Authority to ensure it is subject to the stringent safety requirements of the Dairy Food Safety Scheme.”

Dr Szabo said statistics show that raw milk is a high food safety risk.

“Nationally and internationally raw milk products account for a small proportion of sales but a very large proportion of outbreaks,” she said.

“Unpasteurised milk could contain harmful bacteria such as E.coli, Salmonella and Listeria that can result in illness or even death.

“Listeria is a particularly dangerous pathogen, it can be fatal and is of particular concern to vulnerable populations such as pregnant women and their unborn babies, children, those over 70 and people who are already immunocompromised.

“This is why we undertake this action, to protect people.”

The prosecution resulted from an investigation of Ms McKay by the NSW Food Authority in 2015 where samples of raw milk taken from an animal that was part of her herd share arrangement returned positive for the presence of Listeria.

The operation was immediately shut down by the NSW Food Authority and the Prohibition Order remains in place.

Dr Szabo said consumers need to be aware of claims that raw milk has superior nutritional value are unfounded.

“I recognise and appreciate that people are increasingly conscious of their health and the effect good nutrition has on their wellbeing,” Dr Szabo said.

“However pasteurisation is important as it involves heating the milk to kill dangerous pathogens but has minimal effect on its nutritional value or flavour.

“I remind people that the sale of raw milk for human consumption is illegal in Australia.”

Dr Szabo said the NSW Food Authority is continuing its work in this area of illegal under the counter sales of raw milk and NSW is committed to working with other states in an effort to find a national solution.

Source: NSW Food Authority

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