"We have seen a number of recent recalls of raw milk and it’s important that consumers remember and understand that there are risks with drinking raw milk," MPI director animal and animal products Dr Paul Dansted said.
Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized (heat treated) to kill harmful bacteria such as Campylobacter, Listeria and toxin-producing strains of E. coli (STECs) potentially present in the milk.
In 2014, MPI put in place new rules that mean farmers selling raw milk need to meet food safety requirements, but consumers still need to take care when drinking raw milk.
Know the risks
Dansted said some people who drink raw milk may not fully understand the risks and do not realize there is the possibility of getting sick from the harmful bacteria in the milk.
"Pregnant women, young children (particularly babies), the elderly and people with weakened immune systems should not drink raw milk as they are at greatest risk of getting sick and the consequences for them can be more severe, and in some cases can lead to death," he said.
"No matter how carefully the animals are milked, there is always a risk that harmful bacteria can get into the milk. There is no way of telling by taste, sight or smell if the milk you are drinking contains harmful bacteria, so we recommend that people heat their raw milk until just boiling (or to 70°C for one minute) before drinking it."
Dansted pointed out keeping raw milk refrigerated (4°C or less) also reduces the risk of any harmful bacteria in the milk growing to levels which make people sick when they drink it. People should discard the milk if it has been left out of the fridge for two hours or more and drink it by its use-by date.