The board of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) will decide, during a March 20 meeting, whether to review current rules governing the sale and marketing of unpasteurised, or raw, drinking milk and cream after producers used novel sales routes such as the internet and vending machines.
The FSA has published an outline of the current controls and possible approaches to managing the risks associated with raw milk and cream, which will be considered by the board at the meeting.
According to the FSA: "Most milk and cream on sale in the UK is heat-treated to kill any harmful bacteria or virus that could be present. However, restricted sales of raw drinking milk and cream are allowed in England, Wales and Northern Ireland."
"There is an inherent food safety risk associated with drinking raw milk because germs normally killed by pasteurisation may be present. The sale of raw milk is therefore strictly controlled. Older people, infants and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to food poisoning, so are advised not drink it."
The FSA board will review current controls and will thereafter consult with industry and consumer groups.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, unpasteurised cows’ milk can only be sold direct to consumers from farms or direct from the farmer, but must be labelled. This includes routes such as farmers’ markets and milk rounds, or as part of a farm catering operation. The sale of raw milk is not allowed in Scotland.
Cheeses made with unpasteurised milk are more widely available for sale - due to processes such as salting, acidification and maturation that reduce pathogen risk - but must be labelled as being ‘made with raw milk’ or ‘made with unpasteurised milk’.