Food safety regulators in New Zealand stuck their collective fingers in the air and concluded that maybe there is something to this raw milk thing. Beginning next March, raw milk will be legal to sell directly from farms to consumers, including via home deliveries, with no restrictions on quantities. No re-sales, such as via retail, will be allowed.
In a candid press release, New Zealand’s Minister of Food Safety, Jo Goodhew, said, “I recognise that people feel strongly about their right to buy and drink raw milk. Equally, I am also aware of the strong concerns about the public health risks associated with drinking raw milk and the potential risk to New Zealand’s food safety reputation.We have worked hard to find the right balance between managing the risks to public health while recognising the demand from rural and urban consumers to access raw milk.”
New Zealand dairy farmers have been severely limited, officially, to daily sales of five liters, which is just over a gallon.
The new decision was clearly influenced by a survey the government carried out last year of New Zealand raw milk drinkers and consumers, in which nearly 90% of more than 2,000 respondents said raw milk sales should be a matter of personal choice. The survey also showed that 40% of the raw milk the respondents said they were consuming was going to children, the elderly, and immune-suppressed individuals.
Dairy farmers who want to sell raw milk under the new requirements will need to register with the government, and will be subject to inspections and testing for pathogens, according to the press release: “Under the new policy, farmers must meet requirements such as registering with the Ministry for Primary Industries, meeting hygiene requirements, testing milk for pathogens, keeping records of sales, and labelling appropriately so consumers are aware of the risks and can make informed decisions about consuming raw milk.”
The New Zealand decision appears part of an international trend to relax restrictions on raw milk. There has been discussion of an easing of restrictions in the United Kingdom. And even in the U.S., there is now open discussion in the mainstream media that enforcement of raw milk regulations has eased up significantly, notably from the state that has long set the anti-raw-milk regulatory tone—Wisconsin.
Is the day approaching when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control formally endorse a similar easing of American restrictions? I’m not holding my breath, but imagine that the process may already be under way, in a quiet, almost stealth, mode, so no one has to admit to errors, miscalculations, and misdeeds.