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Proposed options for the sale of raw milk to consumers

Decision announced

After extensive public consultation, the Minister for Food Safety has announced a new policy on the production and sale of raw milk (from any milking animal) to consumers. From 1 March 2016, raw milk can be sold directly from the farmer to consumers either at the farm or via home deliveries provided suppliers meet certain criteria.

For further details on the policy refer to the below:

During 2014 the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) undertook a public consultation on options to change the requirements for the sale of raw milk to consumers. Individuals, businesses and organisations with an interest in raw milk were invited to submit comments in response to a discussion paper on future policy options for the sale of raw milk.

Download a brief overview of submitters’ comments, and MPI’s response.

The Sale of Raw Milk to Consumers: Summary and analysis of submissions on MPI Public Discussion Paper No. 2014/22 [PDF, 575 KB]

As part of the review of the policy around sales of raw milk to consumers, the Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, Sir Peter Gluckman, at the request of the Minister for Food Safety, undertook a review of MPI’s scientific assessment of the risks and benefits of raw milk.

Download Sir Peter Gluckman’s report.

Review of evidence for health benefits of raw milk consumption [PDF, 240 KB]

During the consultation period MPI also conducted an anonymous online survey of people’s experiences with buying, selling, and drinking raw milk. 

Download a report into the findings of the survey

Experiences of Buying, Selling and Consuming Raw Milk: Survey Report [PDF, 422 KB]

Download the regulatory impact statement and cabinet paper which supported the Government's decision:

Information that was released when consultation opened

The Ministry for Primary Industries seeks feedback from interested people and organisations on options to change the requirements on the sale of raw milk to consumers. Raw milk is untreated milk that has not been pasteurised. The law currently allows milk producers to sell up to five litres of raw milk at any one time from the farm direct to a consumer. The demand for raw milk appears to be growing and the numbers of outbreaks of foodborne illness where raw milk consumption is a recorded risk factor have been consistently higher since 2009. The law is now outdated and inefficient.

Consultation documents

Public discussion paper on the sale of raw milk to consumers [PDF, 447 KB]
1: Assessment of the microbiological risks associated with the consumption of raw milk [PDF, 2.2 MB]
2: Assessment of the Effects of Pasteurisation on Claimed Nutrition and Health Benefits of Raw Milk [PDF, 340 KB]

How to make a submission

There are two parts to the consultation: the submission and a survey.

The Ministry encourages you to make your submission online by 5:00pm Tuesday 8 July 2014 at the following link: Raw Milk Online Submission

Alternatively, or as part of your submission, written submissions should be sent to:

  • Email:
  • Post to: Consultation on raw milk sales, Food Policy Team, Ministry for Primary Industries, PO Box 2526, Wellington 6140
  • Hand delivery: Pastoral House, 25 The Terrace, Wellington.

Online experiences of raw milk - survey

As part of the consultation process we are also conducting an anonymous online survey of people’s experiences with buying, selling and/or drinking raw milk. Please complete the survey at the following link:
Experience of Raw Milk Survey

Closing date: 5:00pm Tuesday 8 July 2014

Related resources

Frequently asked questions - Safety of raw drinking milk

What is raw milk?

Raw milk is untreated milk that typically comes from cows, goats, or sheep. This means it has not been heat treated to kill the harmful bacteria (pathogens) and nothing has been added or removed. Pasteurisation is the process that eliminates almost all harmful bacteria through a specific heat treatment. Pasteurisation is achieved by heating milk to 72 C for 15 seconds. Consumers at home can achieve the same result by heating milk to 70 C for one minute.

Is raw milk safe to drink?

Drinking raw milk can cause severe illness as it may contain pathogens such as E. coli, Campylobacter and Salmonella. Pregnant women, children, the frail elderly, and people with weakened immune systems are at greatest risk of getting sick and the consequences for them can be more severe.

How does milk get contaminated?

Harmful bacteria can pass directly into milk from various sources, but faecal contamination is the main cause of pathogens in raw milk. Faecal contamination can come from:

  • poor hygienic practice during milking, such as teats that haven’t been cleaned and sanitised or milk harvesters with dirty hands
  • milking equipment that is poorly designed or not properly cleaned and sanitised

Udder infections can also result in pathogens in raw milk. Animals can look healthy even when infected, so farmers in this situation may not realise there is a risk.

In addition, poor cooling, storage, and handling will allow the pathogens present to grow. Even if care is taken in producing raw milk, there is still the risk that it contains harmful bacteria (pathogens). This is because there is no process used to destroy the harmful bacteria.

How can I tell if raw milk is contaminated?

There is no way of telling by taste, sight, or smell that raw milk contains harmful bacteria. However any milk that appears to have gone off or looks abnormal should be avoided as this indicates that the milk has not been cooled, stored or handled correctly and the bugs present in the milk, whether good or bad, have had an opportunity to grow.

What are the current rules around raw milk?

Food Act

Food Act 1981, Section 11A - farm gate sales

  • A milk producer can sell up to five litres of raw milk per customer at any one time from the farm where the milk has been harvested, direct to people that want to drink it or give it to their families.

Food Act 1981, Section 9(4) and 11AA – food needs to be safe

  • Milk producers need to ensure that any food they sell is not unsound or unfit for human consumption, and is not contaminated.

New Zealand (Maximum Residue Limits of Agricultural Compounds) Food Standard 2013

  • Maximum levels of residues for many agricultural compounds and veterinary medicines have been set, and these levels must not be exceeded in raw milk.

Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code

In most circumstances, raw milk sold to consumers at dairy premises (such as a dairy farm) is exempt from the requirement to “bear a label” [see Standard 1.2.1 of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code] because it is packaged at the premises often in the presence of the purchaser.

However, the following labelling information is still required to be displayed in connection with the raw milk or provided to the purchaser upon request:

    • The name of the food (Standard 1.2.2),
    • Directions for use and storage (Standard 1.2.6)
    • A mandatory statement advising that the product is unpasteurised (Standard 1.2.3).

Any claims made about the nutrition content or health benefits must comply with Standard 1.2.7

Standard 1.6.1 and 1.4.1

Any raw milk for direct sale to consumers must comply with the microbiological limits specified in Standard 1.6.1 and the contaminant and natural toxicant limits specified in Standard 1.4.1.

Animal Products Act 1999

Requires foods from animals be fit for purpose; that is, the food must be wholesome, truthfully represented and safe for consumption by the intended consumer.

Milk producers must ensure that the milk is produced and supplied in a way that manages the potential health risks involved.

Milk providers must comply with the standards set out by regulations. They must also comply with any relevant notices and specifications issued by the Director-General of the Ministry for Primary Industries. Not complying with these standards — and therefore not addressing identified risks to human health — is an offence and can lead to penalties being imposed.

What does the new Food Act say about the sale of raw milk to consumers?

The new Food Act is silent on the sale of raw milk to consumers – it does not prohibit or change the current rules that allow raw milk to be sold from the farm. Under the new Food Act regulations or standards can be developed if necessary. The current review will likely result in requirements under both the Animal Products and the Food Act. The new Food Act will come into force by 1 March 2016, which allows time to develop the requirements for the sale of raw milk to consumers.

Have serious outbreaks of foodborne disease been caused by raw milk consumption?

An outbreak is recorded when two or more people have become sick and the illness is linked to a common source.

Globally, outbreaks of illness caused by raw milk consumption occur regularly. Recorded outbreaks include cases of severe illnesses, which can be life-threatening. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, raw milk is responsible for nearly three times more hospitalisations than any other foodborne source.

The numbers of outbreaks of foodborne illness in NZ where raw milk consumption is a recorded risk factor have been consistently higher since 2009. In 2013, raw milk was recorded as a risk factor in eight outbreaks affecting 33 people. All outbreaks that recorded people’s age included children younger than five years old. In addition, raw milk was a risk factor for two children younger than five years old who were hospitalised with serious renal problems.

Can we eliminate harmful bacteria in raw milk?

No matter how carefully the animals are milked there is always a possibility of harmful bacteria being present in raw milk. This is because pathogens regularly occur in animal guts and are ever-present on farms. Pasteurisation is one of the few  proven methods to kill harmful bacteria in milk.

How does pasteurisation affect the alleged health benefits associated with drinking raw milk?

There is little evidence that “good” bacteria or other components in raw milk kill the “bad” bacteria to prevent illness.

The current scientific evidence shows that the nutritional value of raw milk is not substantially different to that of pasteurised milk.

There is no reason to believe that raw milk would benefit lactose intolerant people. All milk contains lactose. Heat treatment can convert lactose into a more soluble and easily absorbed form, but this happens at temperatures much higher than those required for pasteurisation.

There is no conclusive evidence to show that raw milk helps protect against serious disease. There are a few studies that suggest that drinking raw milk at an early age, along with other factors, may help reduce the risk of developing asthma, hay fever, or eczema but the science is not conclusive because of a lack of data and the absence of any biological reason for why raw milk could help protect against these conditions.

What is known is that it may contain harmful bacteria that can lead to serious consequences, such as renal failure and paralysis. This is why we recommend that young children and other people with lower immunity should not drink it.

To view MPI’s literature review please click on the link:
An Assessment of the Effects of Pasteurisation on Claimed Nutrition and Health Benefits of Raw Milk [PDF, 340 KB]

What can I do to minimise the risk of getting ill from raw milk?

Keeping raw milk under refrigeration (4°C or less) reduces the risk of any harmful bacteria in the milk growing to levels which make people sick when they drink it. The milk needs to be discarded if it has spent more than two hours at room temperature or is more than four days old.

The scientific evidence shows that the best way to minimise the risk of getting ill from drinking raw milk is to heat it, for example to 70°C for one minute. This will kill off the bad bugs but still leave behind healthy milk.

Who should not drink raw milk?

MPI does not recommend drinking raw milk. In particular, the young, frail elderly, pregnant and immuno-compromised (ie, those whose immune system is weakened) should avoid consuming raw milk that has not been heat treated because they are at greatest risk from infection.

What will the costs to farmers be?

All farmers selling raw milk to consumers are required under the law to ensure the milk they sell is safe and fit for purpose. The costs to an individual farmer will depend on what they do currently. Additional costs will also depend on the choices farmers make about how much they want to sell. Costs will vary depending on the policy option finally selected. However the new costs are identified in Appendix 5 of the consultation document. They include the costs for farmers to register their business details with MPI.