Debate: The Risks of Black Market Raw Milk against the Risks of its Legal Consumption in Australia

Raw milk is defined as milk that has not been pasteurized or homogenized. Unpasteurized milk can become contaminated with pathogens such as salmonella spp., E. coli, and especially, Campylobacter jenuni. It has been a century-long global debate on whether or not the dangers of consuming unpasteurized milk is enough to justify its sales prohibition in major countries.

Availability and regulation of raw milk vary from region to region. In Australia, the sale of raw milk for consumption purposes is illegal in all states and territories, as is raw milk cheese with the exception of hard raw milk cheese. However, this has been somewhat undermined by legally selling raw milk as bath milk or pet milk. Ironically, the container in which you can purchase bath milk from looks exactly the same as you would purchase pasteurized milk. Despite raw milk’s legislative ban, Australian cheese maker Bowden has remarked that, “whether it’s legal or not, people are buying and drinking raw unpasteurized milk.” Several incidents associated with drinking unpasteurized milk in Australia has reached the headlines, including the death of a toddler in 2014.

Beverage? Cosmetics? Who knows!

Some decades ago, the common practice when it comes to milk consumption was that you would walk over to your neighboring farm, pump some milk out of the grazing cows into a bottle, and drink it fresh. Drinking raw milk is considered by many health experts as the only correct way milk should be drunk, as the beneficial bacteria Lactobacillus acidophilus is still present in raw milk, along with many essential vitamins, including A, C, B6, and B12, as well as minerals and enzymes.

Unfortunately, the sale prohibition on raw milk isn’t in line with all consumers in Australia, and whenever there are profitable goods for sale that’s banned by the government, the sales move underground and black markets come in. Black markets elevates the issues associated with raw milk consumption by sneakily packaging raw milk as cosmetic milk and selling them at local farmers’ markets or roadside stands. The concern with black market sales is that there is no transparency or after-sale support for the customers. Labelling for merchandise at these places are also not under strict regulations, so many consumers may not even be aware of what is exactly in the bottle they just purchased. In the end, it really comes down to understanding the risk consuming raw milk poses. Bowden advocates the legalization of selling raw milk under tight regulations, including consumption shortly after production, and possibly selling in conjunction with a bacteria-testing kit.

The problem that can occur with consuming raw milk comes mostly from not treating it in the most hygienic and/or proper manner. Degeling from Centre for Values, Ethics and Law in Medicine (VELiM) remarked that large scale production could exacerbate problems, because “often the milk from a lot of cows are mixed together and it only takes one breakdown in the hygiene and bio-safety measures in the milking of one cow for the whole batch to be contaminated.” Currently, the Food Standards Australia (FSA) are beginning to recognize the increasing demand for raw dairy and are in the process of assessing the requirements that dairy plants would need to satisfy in order to safely produce and sell raw milk.

Please click here for the original article if you are interested. 🙂

So now the question is: should raw milk on day become legalized in Australia, or even in other countries? And if not, what steps can be taken to ensure the legislation will be enforced? What do you guys think?

Meggy Li