As I understand it from reading the proposal, the reason is that a new Food Bill is currently before Parliament. The Food Bill makes no mention of the sale of raw (unmodified) milk, so if it is passed into law without amendment, there would be no restrictions on the sale of raw milk in New Zealand. (I'm really wishing MAF hadn't noticed this!)
Since pasteurisation was introduced in the 1950s, farmers have been restricted to selling 5 litres of raw milk at any one time from their farm gate to consumers who intend to drink it themselves or give it to their families.
|Lily drinking a raw milk fluffy.|
Tightening up the 5 litre rule
MAF wants this '5 litre rule' to continue, but wants to tighten up how it is interpreted so that it doesn't allow for the commercial scale sale of raw milk in any sense.
As stated in the proposal, this is:
"because making raw drinking milk widely available would expose the community to potential food borne illness on an unacceptable scale. This is for two reasons: greater numbers of people would be consuming the milk increasing the likelihood of a food borne illness outbreak; and the risk of food borne illness is further increased as transporting and storing large quantities of milk increases the risk of the milk containing higher levels of pathogens."
MAF wants to make interpretation of the 5 litre rule crystal clear. Currently the wording in Section 11A of the Food Act is ambiguous, for example:
- 'at any one time' could be interpreted as the same person being able to purchase several amounts of raw milk over the course of one day, as long as none of those purchases exceeded 5 litres.
- it does not limit the amount of raw milk a farmer can sell, so farmers have the potential to set up commercial enterprises that sell directly to a number of consumers. (And operate independently of the dairy companies? Gasp!)
- with phone and Internet banking available now, consumers can pay farmers without going to the farm gate, which confuses the issue of where a transaction has taken place.
Crack down on "non-compliant activities"
MAF wants to rein in what it considers to be "non-compliant activities", such as ‘raw milk clubs’ where consumers order and buy milk from a dairy farmer over the Internet or phone, and the farmer then has the milk delivered to a pick up point from which consumers collect their purchase.
"This activity does not meet the original intention of farm gate sales, which required consumers to physically go to the dairy premises to pay for and collect the milk."
MAF's reason for wanting to close down these clubs?
"Visiting the dairy farm provides the consumer with an opportunity to assess the hygiene of the farm dairy they are purchasing raw milk from. The activity of delivering the raw milk to a point off the farm also exposes the consumer to greater likelihood of food borne illness as there are additional risks associated with transporting raw milk and storing it off the farm."
Urban-dwellers don't need to drink raw milk
MAF has observed a change in the social make-up of people drinking raw milk. When the 5 litre rule was instituted, one of the reasons was to give rural dwellers access to milk they might not otherwise have.
Nowadays, raw milk is increasingly being bought by urban dwellers with "an interest in natural and unprocessed foods, perceived health benefits, and/or taste." (Howdy MAF, that would be me you're describing.)
MAF is concerned because these consumers may not be as aware of farming practices and the risks associated with consuming raw milk. (Really? You think the people going to all the extra effort and cost to get raw milk haven't researched this?)
No cheese for you
The 5 litre rule is intended to provide for drinking raw milk only, not raw cheese-making, which would require much large volumes of raw milk (about 10 litres to make 1KG of cheese.)
Risk Management Programme (RMP)
Currently the Animal Products Act requires that any person harvesting raw milk for farm gate sales operates under a registered RMP. However, this is too difficult and expensive for MAF to enforce, so it never has.
What MAF is proposing
"Make limited amendments to conditions of sale, exempt farmers from the requirement to operate under a Risk Management Programme, and require that dairy farmers meet certain animal health and hygiene requirements."
The nitty gritty
Limited conditions of sale:
- Only dairy farmers will be able to sell their own raw milk, and only directly to people purchasing it for their own consumption or for their household to consume.
- Dairy farmers would be restricted to selling a maximum of:
- 6 litres of raw milk per day to an individual (increased to from 5 litres fit conveniently into 3 x 2 litre size containers)
- 120 litres of raw milk in total per day which would be, for example, the milk from approximately six milking cows or 24 milking goats. Assuming one customer purchases the maximum of six litres per day, this limit would provide a dairy farmer with 20 customers per day.
- Ordering and payment of raw milk can occur via the phone, Internet or other such means. However, all raw milk purchased must be collected by the individual who will consume it or provide it to their family or household from the place where the animals producing the milk are milked, i.e. the farm dairy. This reflects the intent, where customers are buying raw milk on a ‘buyer beware’ basis and are therefore responsible for making decisions on the level of risk.
- Milk will not be allowed to be sold or distributed from other premises or in other contexts, e.g. at local stores or farmers markets. Transportation and storage of milk off the farm adds a new level of complexity and increases the risk of contamination and growth of pathogens.
Animal health and hygiene requirements:
- Only dairy farmers with TB-free herds will be able to sell raw drinking milk
- Dairy farmers harvesting raw milk for drinking will be required to follow hygienic milking practices such as washing teats before milking
- Equipment used to store and dispense raw drinking milk to consumers must be clean
- Raw milk would only be able to be sold in clean containers to prevent contamination with pathogenic bacteria
- Milk that is stored more than a certain period of time (e.g. two hours) before it is sold to the consumer would be required to be kept at an appropriate temperature (e.g. at or below 6 degrees Celsius or less).
- Dairy farmers would be required to keep records of who they sell raw milk to, how much was sold to each person, and when the sale occurred. This would allow for enforcement of the limits on volume able to be sold and for trace-back if the farmer identifies any problems with the raw milk or there is a food borne illness outbreak
- Continues to provide for farm gate sales of raw milk as originally intended.
- Continuing to limit the availability of raw drinking milk and better enforcing the new requirements would ensure there was no increase in the risk of food borne illness.
- Clarifying the inconsistencies with section 11A and the intent of the requirement would make the requirements more enforceable and ensure more risky activities such as delivery of raw milk to pick up points off the dairy farm, no longer continued.
- Removal of RMP requirement would resolve current compliance issues:
- It acknowledges that MAF can't manage all the risks associated with raw drinking milk and consumers purchase it on a ‘buyer beware’ basis.
- It requires dairy farmers undertaking farm gate sales to meet some animal health and farm hygiene requirements, which will set clear food safety expectations and provide another level of protection for consumers.
Disadvantages of this proposal (as MAF sees it)
- Current non-compliant activities such as ‘raw milk clubs’ do not meet the original intent and will not be legal under this option, which limits consumer choice. (Thank you for this token nod in our direction. But too bad for us anyway, right?)
- MAF will have little regulatory oversight of what is a high risk product, particularly where a dairy farmer does not hold an RMP for other milk harvesting activities.
What the dairy companies have said
Large scale dairy processors have already made their voices heard, wanting to protect their dominance of the milk industry in New Zealand.
Their submissions were posed under concern that more widely available raw milk could lead to greater potential for a foodborne illness outbreak, which could damage the reputation of the entire New Zealand dairy industry. This could result in problems for New Zealand’s exports of milk products.
And, as stated in the report, "Dairy makes a very strong direct contribution to the NZ economy. The dairy sector directly accounts for 2.8% of GDP, or $5 billion and dairy exports were $10.4 billion in calendar year 2009, accounting for around 26% of New Zealand’s total goods exports." (The dairy industry is powerful in New Zealand. Should it have more rights than citizens?)
Make a submission before 5 December 2011
If you would like to protect access to raw milk for consumers who don't live within cooey of a dairy farm, please make a submission.
Also, if you would like to protect the rights of dairy farmers to sell direct to consumers, and not go through the ever changing control of a processing middle man, please make a submission. (Did you know that the payment dairy farmers receive for milk changes every a year and is entirely controlled by dairy companies. Some years dairy farmers get a high payout, others it is low. And farmers have no control over that because they HAVE to sell through a processing middle man.)
And if you want some say in what you pay for dairy products, please make a submission. The price dairy companies pay farmers for milk is entirely based on export prices and what the rest of the world is willing to pay for dairy. We don't get any advantages on what we pay for dairy products, despite living in a dairying nation. That's because we HAVE to buy through a processing middle man. Our prices are set by the rest of the world too.
Protect your right to buy milk direct from the source. Make a submission.
Submissions should be sent to:
Food Policy Team
Biosecurity & Food Directorate
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry
PO Box 2526
Delivery address: Level 10, Pastoral House, 25 The Terrace, Wellington
Fax: (04) 8940726
Please include your name and address on your submission. If you are making comments on behalf of an organisation, also include your title and the name of the organisation.
Please make sure your comments can be clearly read as a number of copies may be made of your submission.