Raw milk – the dangers

Once again we have a situation in Australia where consumers have become ill through the consumption of raw milk. There have been seven cases of Cryptosporidiosis notified to South Australia Health since the 1 June 2017 linked to drinking raw cow’s milk. So it is an opportune time to remind dairy producers and vendors of the dangers of selling raw cow’s milk for drinking.

Firstly, the sale of raw cow’s milk to consumers is illegal in all Australian states and territories. Australian members of the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation (November 2015) confirmed their commitment to prevent the supply of raw cow’s milk for human consumption. The means to achieve this will vary between jurisdictions.

Raw cow’s milk may contain a range of pathogenic microorganisms than can make consumers ill. In some cases infection with these organisms can be fatal.

Consumption of raw milk resulted in serious illness in five children in Victoria in 2014, including one death. The findings of the Victorian Coroner in this case found that on the ‘balance of probabilities .... (the death) was most likely linked to the consumption of unpasteurised milk’.

Labelling a raw milk product ‘not for human consumption’ is insufficient. Milk is a food, and under the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code it must be pasteurised, or treated in a manner which kills pathogenic organisms to an equivalent degree to pasteurisation.

Victorian licence conditions introduced in 2015 require dairy farmers or producers wishing to sell dairy products not intended for human consumption to advise DFSV and to seek DFSV approval of the process by which they will ensure that their dairy product is not able to be consumed or mistaken for food.

The sale to consumers of raw cow’s milk is illegal and presents serious health risks. For further information see:

Risks associated with consuming raw milk

Is raw milk dangerous?

Licence conditions for the control of raw milk sales