Two and half years ago, the government of New Zealand struck a blow for food safety by limiting raw milk sales to registered dairy farms where farm gate purchases and home delivery are permitted.
The New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) plans a November 2018 review of how things are going with the new requirements, which are set out in the Raw Milk for Sale to Consumers Regulations, and became effective in March 2016. The regulations were approved by New Zealand’s cabinet in June 2015.
The MPI is the executive department of the government of New Zealand charged with overseeing, managing and regulating the farming, fishing, food, animal welfare, biosecurity, and forestry sectors of New Zealand’s primary industries.
The raw milk regulations up for review are the result of a consultation and review process undertaken three years ago to strike a balance between managing public health risks and satisfying demand for raw milk by both rural and urban consumers in New Zealand.
When the new regulations went into effect, the MPI said the government recognized drinking raw milk is a high-risk food carrying an increased risk of food poisoning when compared to pasteurized milk. The department said the new requirements imposed more checks and balances, but allowed dairy farmers to continue direct sales to the public with sales at the farm gate or through home deliveries.
To sell raw milk, New Zealand dairy farmers must register with MPI, test for pathogens, keep sales records, and keep their animals in good health. There are no limits on how much raw milk they can sell.
Before 2016, New Zealand’s regulations restricted the sale of raw milk to farms with a limit of five liters per person, but the government ’s review then found it did not adequately control the production, supply, and sale of raw milk. The pre-2016 rules also involved “collection points” for fresh milk deliveries that came into question.
The MPI’s review is scheduled to begin in November, with the eye on whether any modifications are needed. Raw milk advocates say the current system is resulting in more unregistered sellers in the market, possibility meaning there will be a push to allow consumers to pick up raw milk from collection points again.
There are 27 “Farm Dairy Operators” registered with MPI to produce, process and sell raw milk to the public. Those operators pay for registration and testing costs, while the unregistered escape those added expenses.
MPI is headquartered in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, which sits near the North Island’s southernmost point on the Cook Strait. The Ministry’s 2017-18 budget is just shy of $1 billion.
The most recent recall of raw milk in New Zealand was just 30 days ago when Bella Vacca Jerseys found Campylobacter bacteria in as many as four batches of its product.