The public consultation on the proposed changes to the Dairy Regulations in South Australia closed on 28 February 2017. Now we wait to see what the outcome will be.
The online discussion results were very impressive, with over 100 comments and all 100% in favour of regulated raw milk. Click on the link below to read about the proposed amendments to the regulations and also remember to click on the Online Discussion to read the many submissions.
In response, Mark Tyler, president of the Australian Raw Milk Producers Co-Op also made a submission, which is published below:
Thank you for taking the bold step of asking for submissions from the public on the proposed changes to the dairy regulations, and for personally asking me to make a submission. As far as I am aware this is the first time any Australian dairy regulator has made such a request on the raw milk issue, so for that I applaud you personally and the Dairy Authority collectively.
It is only possible to give a detailed response to the following 2 areas (Publication of Fees and Milk Broker) as they are the only items that give details of changes to the wording of the Regulations. For both of these items I would like to inform you that I have no objection to the proposed changes.
For the other items I can only give a general response as there is no detail of proposed changes to the wording of the Regulations. It is my hope that once a decision is made on the wording changes in these areas that this information will be put forward for another round of public consultation.
Update definition of Transport
I agree with the principle of clarifying which types of transport are to come under the Dairy Authority's jurisdiction, and which fall under other agencies. From the information available it appears that someone that transports packaged raw goats milk would still come under both so it would be preferable to define the Dairy Authorities jurisdiction as covering bulk raw milk and unpackaged bulk dairy products.
Accreditation of all species
I definitely agree with the intention of this change, it was a major failing of the last change to the dairy regulations to limit the jurisdiction of the Dairy Authority to certain species, because as an example it is currently possible for someone to produce and sell pasteurised camel's milk without being accredited by DASA.
Raw Goats milk
Improved clarity in the regulations in this area would be most welcome, but again there is no detail of what changes are proposed. The Discussion Paper uses SA Food Regulations 2007 as an example, but unfortunately I couldn't find this regulation when I searched for it so I request that further details are provided on this issue.
I would also like to submit that it would be advisable for the Dairy Authority to take the opportunity availed by this process of changing the Dairy Regulations to address the discrimination of allowing the sale of raw goats milk but not allowing the sale of raw milk of other species, if accredited producers of such milk also meet the requirements of STANDARD 1.6.1 (which doesn't discriminate between species) and have appropriate Risk Management Procedures in place. I would also like to mention that FSANZ have clearly stated under Standard 4.2.4 that any Government is free to allow the sale of regulated raw cow's milk, and there should be no reason for this to not be extended to other species. IF THE PRODUCER CAN MEET THE REQUIREMENTS OF STANDARD 1.6.1 they should be allowed to sell the raw milk, if they can't meet the requirements of the standard then obviously they won't be allowed to sell it, there is no need for discriminatory legislation to deny them the opportunity to even try to meet the Standard.
I would also like to give a brief overview of the biased risk assessments carried out by FSANZ in 2009, The goats' milk assessment used a qualitative approach using data from producers of raw goat milk for human consumption in the 4 Australian states that allow its sale. The cows' milk assessment used a quantitative approach using a made up mathematical model using irrelevant data such as faecal cultures from beef animals collected at an abattoirs (some collected from abattoir floor) or teat contamination figures from dairies in Holland where the cows are housed in barns for a large portion of the year, and incorporated as their base figures milk contamination data from factory suppliers in Western Australia (who never have their milk tested for pathogen levels and have no incentive to reduce the prevalence within the milk. Despite the difference between the sources of milk contamination data, the Australian data for factory cow's milk was actually better for some pathogens and not significantly worse for the others, reinforcing the suspicion that the differing risk assessment methods were used as it was the only way of achieving the pre-determined outcome of allowing goats' milk and disallowing cows' milk. Why wasn't data used from accredited raw milk producers, either from SA in 1995 to 2002 or from other countries that have a regulated supply?
I would support a system of regulated sale of raw milk of any species that is similar to that currently operating in the UK where sale is restricted to only take place directly between the producer and the consumer. By not having it available on retail shelves it will eliminate the risk of an unaware consumer mistakenly purchasing raw milk when they intended to purchase pasteurised milk. This could be reviewed after a few years, but I believe that too many members of the general population are not aware of the difference between raw and pasteurised, and in the initial stage ensure that only people making an informed decision will be able to access it.
Accreditation of producers
If the above discrimination between goats' milk and others is addressed, I would support clarification on the definitions of who is required to be accredited.
In my opinion any changes to Dairy Regulations that make it more difficult for suppliers of raw milk to be upfront and honest about what they do, will run against the stated aim of public health, food safety and consumer protection. Forcing those that make an informed decision to choose to consume raw milk, to source it from the black market rather than allowing them to get it from a regulated source is also pole opposite to the mandated objective of the Dairy Authority of South Australia. The growing demand for raw cows' milk and raw camel's milk confirms that just allowing raw goats' milk is inadequate.
WHAT A REGULATED RAW MILK FARM WOULD LOOK LIKE
Years ago farmers viewed raw milk sales a bit like pocket money on the side, but what is now known is that for risks to be minimised a lot more attention must be given to farming practices to address the major risks of pathogens entering the farm environment.
The major risk factors are herd size, pre milking routine, amount and types of feed other than grass / hay fed to the animals, use of feed mixing wagons, herd health management and refrigeration of milk. To mitigate many of these risk factors it is necessary for the farm to be managed in a way that is very different to the average factory supplier. Therefore whilst not impossible for a farm to supply a processor as well as be an accredited raw milk producer, it is becoming increasing unlikely for them to do both, the only likely exception would be if they were supplying a niche processor such as organic or raw milk cheese maker.
BENEFITS OF A REGULATED RAW MILK INDUSTRY
A major unexpected beneficiary is the processed dairy sector. Many people that are forced onto dairy free diets due to various reactions, find that they can consume raw milk, and I've heard numerous testimonies of many of these people then beginning to be able to enjoy processed dairy products such as cheese and yoghurt as part of their diet.
Dairy related supply companies, such as milking machine technicians, herd recording and breeding supply centres, fodder suppliers, specialist dairy vets, will be able to continue to be present in our dairy regions of South Australia. This will therefore benefit ALL dairy farmers. If the past trend of declining dairy farm numbers continues, especially in the area around Adelaide, our local dairy farmers will end up having to call specialists in from Mt Gambier or even Victoria. The Dairy Authority itself will benefit from a higher level of activity in the dairy sector.
Raw milk producers will also be more labour intensive, and will therefore provide higher employment levels, as well as the flow on benefit to the whole dairy industry of more skilled labour in the marketplace.
There will also be opportunities for boutique producers to complement our already well respected tourist products and regions.
Dairy Farmers will also benefit by having an extra choice of which direction to take their business, the need for this has been obvious for all to see in the past 12 months with how Australia's 2 largest processors have treated their farmers.
ANSWERING THE COMMON REASONS FOR A BAN ON RAW MILK
There is no case put forward of an illness that has occurred from regulated raw cows milk in Australia. The cases listed in FSANZ's cows milk risk assessment were all from unregulated sources. Using these as a basis for banning a regulated supply of raw milk is equivalent to calling for the banning all pharmacies and GP's due to the fact some people get ill and even die from self medicating over the internet.
I hasten to add that there was no evidence of cause provided in any of these cases, and some of them were identified as not being a food borne illness in the investigations that were carried out, highlighted by the data that showed that some of the people that got ill in the outbreaks hadn't consumed raw milk. In nearly all cases other more likely causes were identified, eg contact with animals, contact with contaminated water.
The discussion paper highlights the case of the toddler that died in Victoria in 2014. This event was tragic and I am embarrassed to live in a nation where a Government agency through the media can use one family's tragedy to benefit their own agenda in such a way. The facts as we know them are that the child tested positive to cryptosporidium but not to EHEC when first tested in hospital. The child had played in storm water (common source of crypto) a couple of days before becoming unwell. The child's health improved and then a few days later deteriorated after receiving antibiotic treatment (allergic reaction to antibiotic is common cause of HUS) and subsequently tested positive to EHEC. The child had only received approximately a teaspoon of milk per fortnight in period prior to illness (less than stated infective dose in FSANZ study) and the milk in family's fridge tested negative to pathogens. Weeks later 1 of 39 samples of milk from Mountain View Dairy tested positive to 1 strain of EHEC but the DNA of this was different to that of the strain found in the sample collected from the child. The fact that the Health Department nor Dairy Food Safety Victoria issued a warning to the public immediately after receiving the positive test result, nor requested a product recall of Mountain View milk, adds weight to the argument that they knew this 1 in 39 positive result was not representative of a risk in the milk, otherwise they would be guilty of negligence.
Other cases from other countries such as the USA are often referred to, but once again these are nearly all from unregulated supply situations, or from states that have inadequate regulation. I am unaware of any cases that are actually likely to have been caused by supply from a regulated source.
An outbreak could affect trade
I'm quite sure most parties to international trade of dairy products know the difference between pasteurised and raw milk. And where would they go if they wanted to take their custom away from Australia? New Zealand (Regulated Raw milk sales) USA (legal raw milk supply in all but 8 states at last count) EU (legal raw milk pretty much throughout).
Australia is declared to be the clean green food bowl for the world. To make this claim but to say we are incapable of having a regulated supply of raw milk either questions the ability of our farmers or regulators. I believe both groups are more than capable to do their role well.
I recently read in an article ".. the European Union’s response to the continued prohibition of raw milk sales in Australia was scathing pointing out it denied citizens choice without fully investigating regulatory schemes to account for the safe production and sale of raw drinking milk."
I've spoken with several people that have been taking a photo of a raw milk vending machine (In my opinion not the safest way of providing raw milk) in Europe and had a local walk up to them laughing saying "you must be from Australia or Canada".
It's time for us to stop being the laughing stock of the rest of the world, and to retake our place at the forefront of regulated raw milk production. I hope and trust that you will join us in working toward that goal.
If you would like clarification or expansion on anything I have said, please don't hesitate to forward your questions.
President of The Australian Raw Milk Producers Co-Operative
Another submission to the proposed amendments:
We have decided to share a few of the shorter comments posted on the discussion page below, just in case the pages are removed before people get a chance to read them:
"Hypocritical to allow big companies to continue to produce products like salami that have killed people but to ban raw milk. And what about the recent illnesses caused by the big producers of packaged lettuce? Let's ban that. Raw milk needs regulation and good auditors just like all food does. I want to drink raw milk again and I want it to be safe. At least allow it to be purchased from farmers markets, accredited farmers, where the farmer has total control of the process from milking to bottling to sale." - Debbie Kraushofer
"There's a lot of ignorance. People don't understand the facts about raw milk and how it can be done well. Every Australian state and territory prohibits the sale of raw milk for human consumption. The grounds for this restriction are spurious. Prohibition is a denial of informed personal choice, and at odds with scientific and consumer evidence from around the world. Australia’s ban on raw milk is based on an incomplete risk assessment by Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ), which greatly exaggerated the risks to public health of raw milk. We invite State governments to support innovative dairy producers looking to diversify with safe, high quality products, instead of driving a product like raw milk onto the black market, where safety is less assured." - Erich Schoebinger
"My family and I have enjoyed raw cows milk for years now and enjoy both the great taste and the health giving benefits that it gives. Freedom of choice for our personal food choices must be allowed. Please support the small dairy farmers who provide this wonderful product and create legislation that will support the availability and transport of raw milk in a safe manner. I ask that this matter be considered with common sense and the legislators look to the current practices across many countries in Europe. Please keep our freedom to choose this health giving raw milk." - Jacqueline Iles
"The government allows people to make their own choices within a legal framework for activities that can hurt or kill such as driving, smoking, alcohol and sex. So there is no credibility at all to claiming safety justifies the sledgehammer approach of completely banning the sale of raw milk. I fully support the legalisation of a regulated supply of raw cow’s milk and raw goat’s milk. I choose to use raw cow’s milk from my own cows to make Yoghurt and Kefir which I consume on a daily basis, and have done so for the last 4 years. They taste great and are extremely healthy." - Mark Hobba
"We have been drinking raw milk for years. Before this as a child I drank raw milk. I would like to have the freedom to continue to do so. It is my body and my choice what I put in it. Some cheeses can only be made with raw milk. These come from Europe and we buy them in Australia, yet our government continues to persecute anyone dealing in raw milk!! Life is getting difficult for those of us who wish to enjoy the benefits of raw milk in our diet. Raw milk has been consumed since people have farmed cows ,goats etc etc. Do you think that dairy owners send their milk off to be pasteurised, only to buy it back at the shops because they could get sick? The law is stupid." - Frances Elliott
"My husband and I have been drinking raw milk for the past 2 years. We switch to raw milk as I had huge indigestion problems with pasteurised milk from the shops. Since then we haven't had any health problems. I can drink a glass of raw milk without feeling bloated or having cramps for the next 3 hrs. I support a regulated raw milk industry but state & federal governments' prohibitions are unnecessary and an invasion of our democratic rights." - Ivana Fundak
"Having travelled widely I am staggered at the over-reaching nanny state mentality we see so often - I grew up on a farm drinking raw milk, I've consumed raw milk and cheese in many countries - but here in SA apparently the authorities know better than to allow people the option. I enjoy it for the taste and I believe it to be a healthy and more nutritional option. Sure, regulate & ensure standards, but allow the sensible supply of raw milk to be an option without further wasting countless taxpayer dollars fighting a draconian and unnecessary battle against something that will (a) continue anyway and (b) is widely accepted, and frankly normal, around the world. We want to sell and promote our local produce globally, yet there's an entire segment of the market which is being suppressed." - Matt Round
"I am totally against your efforts to pasteurise all milk. As a Science teacher, we do experiments with students which show that heating a substance above 50°C denatures protein molecules. Pasteurisation kills ALL proteins and enzymes in natural milk which can aid health. We have been drinking raw milk for 3 years. We almost never get sick, and former ailments like flu and allergies are non-existent. The ONLY reason for pasteurisation with today's modern milking procedures is shelf-life - the ability of big business to transport the milk across the country and still have it sitting for two weeks on shelves. Your attempts to take away freedom of choice from consumers are draconian and unnecessary. Europe sells raw milk in drink dispensers along with soft drinks and juices." - Paul Davies
Brian Owens, Chief Executive officer of the Dairy Authority South Australia (now DairySafe) firstname.lastname@example.org