The government in Catalonia has decided to allow the direct sale of raw cow’s milk from producers to consumers.

The regulation sets production, sanitary, transport, labelling, handling and packaging requirements that must be met when selling unpasteurized milk. Authorities from the region in Spain said it applies to livestock farms in Catalonia that directly sell raw cow’s milk.

Sales can be on the producing farm, in a vending machine or at a retail establishment.

The Catalan government said the dairy industry had undergone restructuring in recent years with livestock in good condition and this move would help boost the sector. 

A law prohibiting the sale of unpasteurized, raw milk had been in place since 1990 because of public health concerns.

Spanish authorities are also considering regulation to allow the sale of raw milk, according to media in the country.

The regulation in Catalonia states that raw milk must be cooled immediately after milking and must be kept at a temperature between 1 degree C and 4 degrees C. The unpasteurized milk must be labeled with an expiration dates no more than 72 hours after milking.

Containers with raw milk sold to the final consumer or to retail establishments that cover the consumer must be labeled to conform to regulations. This includes a prominent mention that it is raw milk and that it’s necessary to boil it before consumption. In addition, the raw milk labels must include the temperature range for conservation in the refrigerator and date of packing for the lot.

Those who wish to start selling raw milk direct to the consumer must notify their local departments responsible for livestock before commencing such sales. They are required to provide details of their program for the prevention and control of mastitis as well as a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan.

The Organización de Consumidores y Usuarios (OCU) said safety should not be relegated to the hands of consumers.

Raw milk, without heat treatment, can contain pathogenic bacteria. Consuming it can cause serious illnesses, especially in children, pregnant women and elderly people, according to the Spanish consumer organization.

In a 2015 opinion, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said good hygiene practices at farms can reduce contamination. The agency also said maintaining the cold chain prevents or slows the growth of bacteria, but these practices alone do not eliminate the risks of drinking unpasteurized milk.

The EFSA’s Panel on Biological Hazards (BIOHAZ) concluded that raw milk can be a source of bacteria such as Campylobacter, Salmonella, and Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC). Researchers, public health officials and consumer advocates in the United States have been on record for decades with similar conclusions.

According to Member State data, 27 outbreaks were due to the consumption of raw milk between 2007 and 2013. The majority were due to raw cow’s milk.

In the United States, it is illegal to sell unpasteurized raw milk in 22 states. The majority of the other 28 states limit sales to direct-to-consumer transactions at dairies and distribution to people in members-only herd share operations.

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