Lindsey Farm and Gorge Fresh Organics were fined $27,500 and $20,000, respectively, following investigations and prosecutions by New Zealand Food Safety.
The two separate cases were part of a larger investigation by the authority in a bid to reduce the risks for consumers. Nine operators in total have been charged so far for offences such as knowingly causing risk to human health, failing to register, and failing to comply with legal directions to cease trading.
"Raw milk is inherently riskier in comparison to milk that has been pasteurized to kill potentially harmful bacteria,” said New Zealand Food Safety deputy director general, Vincent Arbuckle. “These pathogens can be particularly dangerous for vulnerable communities, including the young, the old, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems.”
The court heard that Lindsey Farm thought it offered its customers ‘limited partnerships’, which exempted them from registering – but New Zealand Food Safety said the assumption had been false, and that the farm was reminded ‘a number of times’ to comply.
“Despite being issued a Notice of Direction prohibiting sale and distribution of raw milk until they registered, they continued selling raw milk,” the body stated.
Lindsey Farm eventually registered, but not before a foodborne illness had been linked to its raw milk, the court heard.
Gorge Fresh Organics also never registered, instead selling its raw milk through a ‘dairy husbandry agreement program’. The investigation uncovered that the farm ‘illegally delivered milk to pre-arranged collection points’ including unlabelled milk.
“We’re not saying people can’t drink raw drinking milk,” Arbuckle explained. “What we are saying is that when people choose to have it, they’re able to make that choice with a degree of confidence that the milk they’re consuming is produced within the regulatory framework.
“Registered suppliers, who are being audited regularly to ensure they are managing risks and testing regularly, help consumers reduce the risks if they choose to drink this product.
"Compliance with the rules would have cost both companies $10,000 to $15,000 a year, a small amount compared to the risk of exposing their customers to unnecessary risk.”