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Australia Relaxes Code to Permit Some Raw Milk Cheeses

Australia is set to OK the sale of some hard, grating cheeses made from unpasteurized milk, but Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) says raw drinking milk “presents too high a risk” to consider its commerce.

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The change for some raw milk cheese is the result of an assessment, known as Proposal P1007, which considered whether Australia’s dairy standards were too restrictive.

“Australia has a very safe supply of milk and dairy products thanks to existing regulations in the Food Standards Code that set controls to manage potential microbiological hazards,” FSANZ explained in published statements.

The agency wanted to see whether there were “feasible safety systems” for raw milk products that would preserve the integrity and public health safety of its dairy supply.

The regulatory panel concluded it could allow a greater range of hard cheese production, subject to certain storage time and moisture content requirements, because the low moisture content and long maturation of hard cheeses made from raw milk make them as safe as pasteurised cheeses.

If food regulation ministers do not ask for a review of the proposal during a 60-day comment period, it will become part of food law in Australia states and territories.

FSANZ Chief Executive Officer Steve McCutcheon said FSANZ is also looking at allowing other raw milk cheeses in a separate review of the code. 

Pasteurization – heating milk to a certain temperature for a set period of time to kill bacteria responsible for diseases such as tuberculosis, brucellosis, campylobacteriosis, listeriosis and salmonellosis — has been a standard practice in Australia since the mid-1950s, according to FSANZ, which describes the process as “a valuable public health tool.”

The agency concluded that unpasteurized, fluid milk presents too high a public health risk to be permitted for sale in Australia.

“For raw drinking milk, even extremely good hygiene procedures won’t ensure dangerous pathogens aren’t present,” FSANZ stated. “Complications from bacteria that can contaminate these products can be extremely severe, such as haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) which can result in renal failure and death in otherwise healthy people.”

The sale of raw goat’s milk is currently allowed in New South Wales and Western Australia. That exemption to the dairy code restriction on raw milk sales is being reviewed separately.

© Food Safety News