Raw milk products — questions and answers
(Last updated July 2012)
What are raw milk products?
Raw milk products are dairy products that haven’t been pasteurised, a process that heats milk to a specific temperature for a set period of time, killing bacteria responsible for diseases such as tuberculosis, brucellosis, campylobacteriosis, listeriosis and salmonellosis.
Pasteurisation is a process that has been used since the early 1900’s, becoming standard practice in Australia since the mid-1950’s. It is a valuable public health tool.
What has FSANZ been doing about raw milk products?
Through Proposal P1007 FSANZ has been looking at whether or not permission should be given for raw milk products to be sold in Australia.
The assessment of these products has looked at what production and processing measures and product characteristics are needed to provide a high level of safety for Australian consumers.
What is the latest recommendation in the Proposal?
FSANZ has approved a proposal recommending permission be given for the sale in Australia of raw milk hard to very hard cooked curd cheeses. Changes have been made to the Food Standards Code — Dairy Standard (Standard 4.2.4) relating to processing requirements for cheese production that state storage time, and moisture content requirements for these cheeses to ensure product safety. FSANZ will continue to look at permissions for other raw milk cheeses through a new proposal that will use the technical work already undertaken under P1007.
Other raw milk cheeses are being considered separately because a wider range of processing measures and product characteristics need to be considered.
What about raw drinking milk?
The assessment work for P1007 concluded that raw drinking milk presents too high a risk to consider any permission in the Code. In the new proposal, FSANZ will be reviewing the current exemption that allows raw goat milk.
For raw drinking milk, even extremely good hygiene procedures won’t ensure dangerous pathogens aren’t present. 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.
People with increased vulnerability to diseases caused by these bacteria include young children, elderly people, people with compromised immune systems and pregnant women and their foetuses.