The Raw Milk movement is on the move

Introduction

There have been many developments in the raw milk movement. On Monday MPI New Zealand announced that they will replace burdensome food safety regulations with new and easier ways of meeting food standards. Food Safety Minister Damien O'Connor launched the Food Safety Template for Cheesemakers at The Great Eketahuna Cheese Festival on the 14th of May that will hopefully make it easier for celebrated raw milk cheesemakers like Biddy Fraser-Davies, more here. We understand that raw drinking milk rules will also be reviewed soon.

Food Standards Agency is currently doing a review of the different regulated raw milk systems in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to see if any changes are needed. Raw milk producers have also come together and formed a Raw Milk Producer Group and recently there was a Raw Milk Conference. The NFU has kindly made the videos available to watch. At the bottom of the page there are some great information from a microbiologist about the factors that can increase or decrease the risk of pathogen contamination in milk and other preventative and control measures.

This morning Fen Farm Dairy, who produce the world famous raw milk brie cheese Baron Bigod announced that their cheese will be on the menu for Prince Harry's wedding morning breakfast at Cowarth Park Hotel. The raw cheese is so famous it is now being exported to France!

2015 Raw Milk Risk Assessment

Raw milk has been available in England and Wales for many years. Some producers have been supplying directly to consumers for more than a decade. The Food Standards Agency, who is the regulator, started extensive research and a risk assessment in 2012 into the industry. In July 2015 they presented their findings to the board. One of the key conclusions of the review were that the risks associated with RDM are acceptable and appropriate as long as appropriate hygiene controls were applied.

Northern Ireland has regulated raw milk access after authorities decided to engage with producers to create production standards in 2015. They had unregulated raw milk access for many years before the regulations were installed. There has been five raw milk producers in Northern Ireland for many years.

2018 Raw Milk Risk Assessment

Late last year the Food Standards Agency sent out a survey on raw milk. The report was released earlier this year and the FSA decided to launch another risk assessment into the safety of unpasteurised milk, read about it here.

The FSA had a board meeting in March 2018. The entire 4 hours and 56 minutes of the meeting was video recorded and is available to view here. They are currently in the process of working out what their recommendations to the board will be and the paper may be published around the end of May. The recommendations to the board are due in June. If the board recommends that changes are needed there will be a consultation. Watch the Advice from the FSA video for a more condensed version of their current process.

Raw Milk Producers Group UK  

More recently a Raw Milk Producer Group was established. They hope to connect, support and share information between producers and work with regulators to guide appropriate and proportionate controls for the production of RDM. Visit their temporary website to learn about the group's aims. There are now 180 registered raw milk producers with the FSA. Raw milk from cows, goats, sheep and buffalo are produced and sold direct to the public.

Raw Milk Conference

On the 3rd of May 2018 dairy farmers who produce raw drinking milk (RDM) met with the FSA with the aim of working together to ensure the continued sale and appropriate controls for the sale of RDM. The meeting demonstrated that there is support for the forming of a body to represent, support, and facilitate collaboration between raw milk producers.

 

The NFU (National Farmers Union) and the FSA jointly hosted the conference for raw drinking milk at the NFU Stoneleigh headquarters. We are delighted that the NFU, an organisation who helps farmers, chose to share the videos from the raw milk conference with the international raw milk community. We thank you for the transparency and generosity!

According to this article over 70 farmers gathered to listen to a variety of speakers, including the FSA, an independent microbiologist (Jayne Hickinbotham), the Specialist Cheesemakers Association (Bronwyn Percival) and RDM producer Jonny Crickmore from Fen Farm Dairy

"Aimed at producers, the conference outlined the changes to regulations, labelling and selling of raw milk. An independent microbiologist provided producers with an insight into bacteria behaviour and how to take action on their farms to prevent any food borne illness."  

"Dairy farmer Jonny Crickmore also used the opportunity to pitch the need for producers to form a RDM Association with overwhelming support from the audience. The future association aims to provide producers with a Code of Best Practice and support for farmers through advice and guidance for producing RDM to the general public." 

 

Observations from the videos:

There is amazing collaboration between producers and food safety inspectors and some of the FSA staff showed an appreciation for the value of raw dairy products. Some actually consume and enjoy the products. This is heartwarming and encouraging. It is also interesting to observe how the FSA has a spirit of transparency, inclusion and respect for farmers who diversify with RDM. There is no animosity towards producers, instead the FSA clearly wants to help the industry grow in a safe and responsible manner. Kudos to them.

 

Other online resources:

Also see the following resources from the Raw Milk Producer Group's temporary website:

 

Scientific Studies on Raw Milk

 

Microbiology of Raw Milk

The papers below are from Jayne Hickenbotham's talk on microbiology:

Factors that may reduce or increase risk of pathogen contamination in raw milk

Staph aureus

Listeria

Campylobacter

Salmonella & e Coli