The Food Standards Agency (FSA) in the United Kingdom has decided to keep current restrictions on the sale of raw milk in place. It is legal in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland to supply raw or unpasteurized milk directly to consumers, but it may not be sold at retail or through supermarkets. FSA decided against making any changes after a review of controls on drinking raw milk. The FSA board of directors met Wednesday to discuss the findings of the comprehensive review of regulations that control the sale of unpasteurized, or raw, drinking milk. The review concluded that the risk associated with raw milk consumption, except for vulnerable groups, is acceptable when appropriate hygiene controls are applied. The review concluded that:
- The current restriction on sales of raw milk should remain in place as there is uncertainty that consumer protection can be maintained if the market for raw milk is expanded.
- Risk communication could be improved, particularly for vulnerable groups, and changes to the labeling requirements are proposed to reflect this.
The board accepted the conclusions of the review. However, members noted concerns that consumers should be more aware of the risks and asked that FSA be clear in its advice not to drink raw milk. The board noted reports of non-compliance in the industry and agreed that supporting improvements in compliance should be a focus for FSA action. In a development to FSA’s approach to the control of “risky” foods, the board agreed that they will now identify triggers relating to outbreaks, detection of pathogens in raw milk samples, and changes in the retail market for raw milk that would require a further discussion of risks and controls. This will be facilitated by regular reporting of compliance in this sector to the board. FSA reviewed the current controls to make sure they are clear, consistent, and control the public health risks associated with raw milk. The review covered England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Sale of raw drinking milk is banned in Scotland. The consultation considered a number of options. These ranged from removing restrictions on sales to introducing a requirement for all milk to be pasteurized prior to sale. (To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)