E.coli O157 & Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome

Irish Government Consider Banning the Sale of Raw Milk

7th October 2011

A group of artisan foodmakers are at odds with the Irish governments food safety body over plans to ban the sale of unpasteurised (raw) milk, rejecting claims that the ban is a logical move to reduce health risks.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has recommended that the government restore an outright ban on the sale of such milk, which had been originally introduced in the mid 1990s but overturned by a European directive in 2007.

Opponents of the proposed ban believe there is no reason for the ban, arguing that the government should instead try to educate people on how to avoid some of the potential health risks posed.

The primary reason why we dont think the ban should go ahead involves choice, said Elisabeth Ryan, of Sheridans Cheesemongers in Co Meath, who is leading a campaign urging the government not to ban the sale of raw milk.

Were not saying raw milk should be sold from every single farmer around Ireland! Our suggestion is that small dairy farmers, who have regulations on them, be allowed to sell raw milk and people be allowed to buy it.

Ms Ryan explained that the largest consumers of raw milk are farming families who drink the produce of their own dairy herds and that statistics from the time the original ban was introduced showed suggested that as many as 100,000 Irish families drank raw milk.

Dr Wayne Anderson, the FSAIs Director of Food Science and Standards, says there is a genuine reason for banning the sale of raw milk - pointing to statistics showing that banning the sale of unpasteurised fluids genuinely reduces human illness. When Scotland introduced a similar ban on raw milk sales, the rate of outbreaks of human diseases attributed to raw milk fell significantly, while the rates remained almost unchanged in England and Wales (where the sale of raw milk was not banned).

Cornell University in the US lists 17 outbreaks from raw milk between 2008 and 2010, affecting 159 people.

What many people dont realise is that E.coli O157 doesnt show signs in cattle - cattle can be perfectly healthy, but intermittently share this organism in their milk.

Effectively, even under the best hygiene circumstances within a dairy, it cannot prevent these pathogens being present. The FSAI has always recommended that everyone should consume pasteurised milk, and it remains consistent about that.

Even if the government does not ultimately take its advice on board, Dr Anderson said that the FSAI would still continue to encourage people not to drink raw milk and to always seek a pasteurised alternative. We have no axe to grind with small farmers or the artisan food industry, but public health measures like re-instating the ban that has existed up to 1996 seem, to us, to be the most logical.

A government spokeswoman said the final decision would rest with the health minister James Reilly, who is expected to make a decision on the matter by the end of the year.

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