Thursday, 6 October 2011
Dáil Éireann Debate
38. Deputy Sandra McLellan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if the results of the consultation process on raw milk will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27917/11]
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Deputy Simon Coveney): The proposed ban on the sale of raw milk for direct human consumption is not new. Sale of raw cows milk was banned for many years (from 1997 till 2006) by my Department; and previously by most local authorities. The ban lapsed due to a change in EU legislation in 2006.
A public consultation process was held in 2008 in relation to the proposed extension of the ban to goats and sheep milk. Seventeen submissions were received. I do not propose to release these submissions as they are regarded as confidential correspondence between the individuals and organisations concerned and my Department. The submissions were wide ranging and included requests to allow restricted sale of raw milk as well as a number of claims of perceived health benefits of drinking raw milk.
All the submissions were carefully reviewed by my Department’s experts in conjunction with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. They were satisfied that the claimed benefits from drinking raw milk did not outweigh the known health risks associated with drinking raw milk. These include diseases such as TB, Brucellosis, E. coli O157, Campylobacter and Salmonella. There have been incidences of these in Ireland and other countries in recent years. Resulting illnesses can be serious and on occasion fatal.
The FSAI has therefore recommended that the sale of unpasteurised milk from all farm animals which is intended for direct human consumption should be prohibited; and advises that the most effective way to protect public health is to ensure that such milk is pasteurised.
The proposed ban will not apply to the consumption of raw milk — e.g. a dairy farmer drinking milk from his/her own cows. Such a ban is not possible under the law and in any event would be unenforceable. However, it is recommended to avoid this practice for health reasons.
The proposed ban will not apply either to the use of raw milk to make cheese. The cheese making process takes time and this provides an opportunity to withdraw product from sale in the event of a problem arising with the source milk. The cheese making process also prevents growth of pathogens and in some cases encourages slow decline in numbers of some pathogens.
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