Select Committee on Food Standards First Report


Submitted by David Green


  It is disgraceful that the above outbreak is already being associated with unpasteurised milk—notably by those campaigning to ban its use.

  Data already available make it clear that the farm with which the outbreak has been associated was selling pasteurised milk. And that if that farm was the source, the reason was either a failure in the pasteurisation process or contamination of the milk after pasteurisation—when it is even more vulnerable to re-infection because all competing bacteria have been eliminated. Public comment has also failed to emphasise that the large proportion of infections attributed to dairy products is found in those which have been pasteurised.

  I add these further points:

    (1)  Coliform bacteria (of any type) only enter milk and its products as the result of faecal contamination.

    (2)  Producers and processors of raw milk are fully conscious of the risk—to them and their customers—and adopt stringent dairy hygiene regimes to guard against it. Producers of milk destined for subsequent pasteurisation rely on that as a safeguard and are inevitably more relaxed in their precautions.

    (3)  This fact is recognisable from hard data. Standard MAFF milk tests regard milk as acceptable with a coliform count of 100 per ml or less. A raw milk producer I know well (whose product is additionally safeguarded because it is then made into long matured hard pressed cheese which has well known natural antibiotic qualities) consistently turns in MAFF tests with a Coliform count of 1 per ml or less—100 times below the level deemed acceptable by MAFF.

  The end result is that milk destined for subsequent pasteurisation inherently presents a higher public health risk than milk intended for raw use. Its initial quality adds no additional safeguard if pasteurisation fails or is by-passed by subsequent contamination.

March 1999

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Prepared 12 April 1999