An Australian court has fined a New South Wales man $53,000 for various food safety violations, including selling unpasteurized dairy products “deliberately mislabeled and camouflaged as cosmetic products” when he knew his customers would drink them.

According to a story in Hospitality Magazine, Peter Melov was found guilty of 43 breaches of the Food Act for what Primary Industries minister Steve Whan, in a news release, said “placed the health and safety of his customers at significant risk.”

Whan acknowledged that the sale of unpasteurised milk products in New South Wales is a divisive issue “amongst the some sectors of the dairy industry and advocate groups,” but said the NSW government “made no apologies for giving paramount consideration to the public interest and the need to protect public health.”

Whan said, “There is sound scientific evidence pointing to the risks associated with consuming raw milk. To ensure that cow’s milk and cow’s milk products sold in NSW are safe they go through the New South Wales Food Authority’s stringent food safety management programs, which includes pasteurisation.”

In sentencing Melov, Chief Industrial Magistrate GJT Hart said,  “The Defendant appears to have a propensity for adopting, and then advocating with vigour, the teachings of the unqualified, whilst preferring to ignore the available literature produced by people with relevant scientific qualifications.”

The offenses relate to the sale of unpasteurised milk and dairy products, including cottage cheese, butter and yogurt that were sold over the Internet and at an organic food market.

Additional offenses included the sale of goods including chocolate, pumpkin seeds and cranberries that were labelled with health claims in violation of Australia’s Food Standards Code.

Melov, according to a story in the Sydney Morning Herald, said, “Everyone was coming in asking us for raw milk, and a few shops in Bondi had it, so I thought, ‘I’ll just sell it.’ ”  He told the newspaper he would not risk selling raw milk again.  “It was like we had been dealing drugs.”

The raw-milk debate in Australia, as explained in the Sydney Morning Herald story, sounds much like that in the U.S.: 

Medical microbiologist Dr Vitali Sintchenko, of Westmead Hospital, said there were sound reasons why selling raw milk was banned.

”There are potential pathogens and toxins present in raw milk that can be life-threatening,” he said.

Cheesemaker Will Studd has advocated changes to the legislation banning raw milk. ”If we have such a healthy dairy industry, what is everybody so concerned about?” he asked.

”Why aren’t consumers allowed to enjoy milk in its natural state?”

With the right regulation, there would not be any alarm about consuming raw milk and its products, he argued.

Fellow cheesemaker Franck Beaurain does not think it is necessary to relax existing regulations.

”I really believe you can do a good job with pasteurised milk. I can’t say it [raw milk] tastes better than pasteurised.”