The FSA’s impending unpasteurised milk review has provoked an acrimonious split in the UK’s raw milk movement.
Traditional raw milk producers are blaming “maverick” start-ups - which have started selling raw milk through vending machines and over the internet - for the review, which they say is unnecessary and could lead to stricter rules.
In Scotland, raw milk is already banned, but it can be sold in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, as long as it is sold locally, direct from the farm or at a farmers’ market.
Sales over the internet or through vending machines were not prohibited under the current rules, but were also “not within the spirit of the legislation”, said the FSA’s director of food safety, Alison Gleadle.
The FSA is therefore proposing to carry out a public consultation on whether the rules on raw milk need to be reinforced, or whether sales should be banned across the UK.
Richard Copus, co-founder of the Campaign for Real Milk UK, said he was “absolutely furious” with raw milk producers selling over the internet or through vending machines. They were “stirring things up” and “really testing” the rules, he said. “The majority of small farmers who sell raw milk are very happy with the current legislation and don’t want the boat to be rocked.”
The review could lead to stricter rules, particularly for farmers markets, warned Copus, adding that he hoped the FSA would not go down that road.
Although there have not been any disease outbreaks linked to raw milk in England and Wales since 2002, many mainstream dairy producers are in favour of a total ban. “If there ever was an outbreak associated with raw milk, the headlines would be about ‘milk’ and damage to the industry could be substantial,” said one dairy executive.