Ireland may once again halt the sale of raw milk for human consumption over the objections of raw milk producers and advocates who say a ban would not only deny consumers free choice, but would also be a missed business opportunity.

According to a story Wednesday in the Irish Times, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney says the ban on sales of unpasteurized milk will resume “as soon as possible.”

Ireland barred the sale of raw cows’ milk from 1997 to 2006, and most local authorities prohibited it before that, but the ban lapsed in 2006 due to a change in European Union policy. 

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland now says public health protections must come before consumer choice, citing risks of raw milk consumption that include TB, brucellosis, E.coli O157, Campylobacter and Salmonella. 

In opposing the ban, the Campaign for Raw Milk has put forth economic arguments — raw milk commands a premium price and benefits dairies — and has also argued that raw milk production should be regulated, not prohibited.

The group wrote in a recent letter to Ireland’s public health officials that “we would welcome and encourage specific regulations surrounding the production and sale of raw milk in order to minimise and manage potential risks. As with any other food, proper regulations are always necessary and correct. In fact, it is by no means desirable that every dairy farm in Ireland be permitted to sell raw milk.”

Coveney rejects that suggestion, saying that regulating raw milk production would be both cumbersome and costly, and would still not eliminate health risks.

Ireland’s proposed ban would not apply to raw milk used to make cheese.

Scotland has banned the sale of raw cows’ milk and cream since 1984, when unpasteurized milk was implicated in 12 deaths and a number of illnesses. Milk-related infections have dropped in Scotland since then.

In Wales, unpasteurized milk is restricted to farm gate sales and must carry a warning label, which states that the Food Standards Agency “strongly advises” that raw milk should not be consumed by children, pregnant women, older people or those who are unwell or have chronic illness. 

Raw milk policy in England was most recently revisited in 2002, when food safety officials concluded that relatively few people drink raw milk, and that those who do don’t heed health warnings about it.

Rather than increase the warnings on labels, the regulatory agency opted instead to revise its website to make clear the risks associated with consuming raw milk, particularly by vulnerable groups. It also advises that, despite being popular with some people, unpasteurized milk and cream can be harmful.

  • Raw milk consumption has nothing to do with the European Union and never has. The only regulation is on the distribution of raw milk BETWEEN countries. It is bizarre that the Irish Government started to allow raw milk sales on the auspices of a supposed EU directive, but the great thing is that the resurgence of raw milk sales came at a time when more and more people were realising the benefits of untreated milk.
    Of all the countries bordering the shores of the British Isles, only Scotland bans raw milk, and that was one of the experiments carried out on the country before devolution; in those days successul experiments there were usually then incorporated into English (and Welsh) law. By the the time Wesminster tried it on the rest of the UK (twice) the natural food lobby had become strong and the Government backed down.
    In France unpasteurised milk is increasingly available in cities via refrigerated, roadside machines and in England and Wales townsfolk can buy it from farmers’ markets. There have been no serious outbreaks of disease for decades.
    Ireland – get real! Of all countries, you’re telling Europe that freedom of choice doesn’t matter and are implying that your dairy industry isn’t up to much in terms of quality.
    Richard Copus

  • federal microbiologist

    It’s commendable that Ireland is imposing a ban on raw milk sales. The ‘Campaign for Raw Milk’ is simply another lobbying organization seeking to put profit before public health, albeit under the guise of permitting ‘choice’.
    Odds are that when citizens come down with severe GI tract disease after ingesting Listeria, Mycobacterium bovis, and E. coli in unpasteurized milk, and require hospitalization, the Campaign won’t be at hand to mumble all about the wonderful ‘benefits’ of ingesting raw milk.

  • Dear ‘Federal Microbiologist’ If you have a look at our website you will realise that you are misinformed regarding the nature of our campaign here in Ireland. The Campaign for raw milk, far from being just a ‘lobbying group’ is a coming together of the Irish Food community who feel passionately that they should retain the right to consume raw milk, and that farmers – operating to a strict code of practise should have the right to sell it.

  • For the record, the Campaign for Real Milk UK is a purely CONSUMER orientated organisation paid for by voluntary donations and is concerned solely with the promotion of unpasteurised and unhomogenised milks. We attack big business in the form of the dairy consortiums who increasingly de-nature our milk by over-treatment. We have no profits. CREAM was originally founded by me and Sir Julian Rose over two decades ago when it was known as CAMILK.