Consumers are again being reminded of the importance of avoiding unpasteurised milk.
According to the Food Safety Authority, raw milk – i.e. milk that is unpasteurised – can contain harmful bacteria that increase the risk of foodborne illnesses.
It has just published a report which contains the findings of a survey that confirms the presence of pathogens in raw milk and the filters used in milking equipment.
Among milk samples, detection rates of Campylobacter – the most common cause of bacterial gastroenteritis in Europe – were 3%. However, detection rates among milk filter samples were 22%.
Detection rates of Listeria monocytogenes – another bacteria that causes food poisoning – in milk samples was 7%, but 20% in milk filter samples.
Meanwhile, Salmonella was detected in 1% of raw milk filters and 0.5% of raw milk samples, while E.coli was found in 6% of raw milk filters.
“Almost all milk on sale in Europe is pasteurised and pasteurisation is the simplest and most reliable method to ensure that milk is safe to drink. While the market for raw milk is small, it remains a serious concern given the well-documented public health risks posed by the presence of pathogens in raw milk,” commented Dr Wayne Anderson of the FSA.
He recommended that raw milk should be avoided by consumers.
“For those who still wish to drink it, they should, at a minimum, boil the milk before drinking it to kill any potentially harmful bacteria,” Dr Anderson said.
He emphasised that there is an ongoing risk to farm families who continue to drink raw milk in their own homes.
“The FSA is aware that any ban on the sale of raw milk would not affect those farm families who choose to consume raw milk. But these families should be particularly aware of the risk to young children and pregnant women posed by drinking raw milk and also the fact that farm visitors may not be aware that they are consuming raw milk. We therefore continue to recommend the use of home pasteurisers to ensure milk is safe,” he commented.
Dr Anderson added that while hygiene on farms and animal health have both improved significantly in recent years, farms are still a ‘significant reservoir for pathogens’, and even with the best hygiene standards, contamination is possible.