The big thing in food safety right now is raw milk. With the potential death of a young child and possible illness of several others due to drinking raw milk, all health authorities in Australia are discussing what can, and should, be done to prevent a recurrence.
Raw milk is not permitted to be sold for human consumption in Australia, it is however allowed to be sold for bathing and other cosmetic purposes.
Raw milk contains a lot of naturally occurring bacteria, many of which are harmful to humans when consumed. It is a recognised source of food poisoning from Listeria, Salmonella and E.coli.
To ensure that this product is safe for human consumption, the milk must be put through a heat process called Pasteurisation. This process heats the milk up rapidly to a temperature that will kill the vast majority of bacteria present, held for a set time period and then quickly cooled down to slow the growth of any remaining bacteria.
This milk is then kept below 5°C to slow bacterial growth. The product then has a use by date, after which the amount of bacteria in the milk will make it unsafe for consumption as long as it is kept below the important 5°C. This is the shelf life of the milk and is usually around 10 days.
Raw milk does not undergo this process, so there is no step used to kill the dangerous bacteria. So the bacteria will continue to grow slowly in the fridge and get to a level very quickly that will make people very sick if it is consumed.
This is why raw milk is not permitted to be sold for human consumption in this country. It must be clearly labelled as Raw Milk and show that it has not been pasteurised. It should not be drunk by anyone, and especially anyone in the high risk groups. Unfortunately, to a child it will look just like drinking pasteurised milk as it is sold in health food shops in the same bottle style and with labels in the same places.
Some people believe that Raw Milk is good for your health, but there has been little scientific support of this. The only real benefit is that the large amount of bacteria in raw milk will force the body’s immune system to work harder and this will make it stronger, but it absolutely is not worth the risk of consuming such dangerous bacteria.
Many cheesemakers believe that cheeses made from raw milk have more depth of flavour and there is still a strong push for this to be allowed in Australia, however at the moment it is the bottles of raw milk available to the public that is the significant food safety issue.
Authorities are meeting across the country to determine if the practice of allowing raw milk to be sold for bathing etc is even to be continued, as there is such a risk for children.
This is really a watch this space situation as we wait to find out what the health authorities across Australia decide.
Written by Rachelle Williams, The Green Food Safety Coach.