Australia looks set to okay the sale of non-pasteurised hard cheeses after food safety authorities approved a proposal to sell raw milk products in the country.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), which develops food standards to cover the food industry in Australia and New Zealand, has approved Proposal 1007 – which examined whether or not permission should be granted for raw milk products to be sold in Australia.
The proposal approval will involve changes to storage requirements in Food Standards Code standard 4.2.4 – otherwise known as Primary Production and Processing Standard for Dairy Products.
The standard specifies processing provisions for milk and dairy products that essentially require pasteurisation or equivalent processes.
While it approved the sale of non-pasteurised hard cheese, the authority also concluded that raw drinking milk currently presents too high a risk to be considered for sale.
High raw milk risk
“During assessment, FSANZ looked at the production and processing measures and product characteristics needed to provide a high level of safety for consumers,” said FSANZ CEO Steve McCutcheon.
“The permission for non-pasteurised hard to very hard cooked curd cheeses will involve changes to the Food Standards Code relating to storage time and moisture content requirements.”
Raw milk products, which are those that have not been pasteurised, were denied permission under the proposal after the FSANZ assessment voiced concerns about the “prevalence of pathogens in raw milk.”
It also highlighted the “risks associated with consumption of raw drinking milk.”
McCutcheon said: “FSANZ has concluded that raw drinking milk present too high a risk to consider any permission in the Code.”
He added that there are plans to review permissions for other raw milk cheeses through an extension of the proposal.
“Other raw milk cheeses are being considered separately because a wider range of processing measures and product characteristics need to be considered.”
Under the risk assessment, raw milk products were broken down into three categories.
For categories one and two, the properties and/or processing controls were sufficient to provide a product with an “acceptable level of public health risk.”
Category three products are those that for which the properties and/or processing factors are likely to allow the survival of pathogens that may have been present in the raw milk and may support the growth of these pathogens.
For the category three products, the risk assessment found that “the level of risk cannot be reduced sufficiently and such products present a high level of public health and safety risk.”
Australian cheese processors will be expected to comply with changes to the country’s Food Standards Code, if they are approved by food regulation ministers in the country.