NZ unpasteurised milk proposal moves closer to reality

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Codex alimentarius, Food

New Zealand’s Food Safety Authority has received a dozen responses supporting a proposal to allow the manufacture, sale and import and export of unpasteurised dairy products, and which would open up a new global market.

New Zealand currently allows only a very small number of unpasteurised milk products – (Emmental, Gruyere and Sbrinz) – and limited farm-gate sales of raw milk. Although New Zealand processors can apply to make unpasteurised milk products, no technical criteria or guidance material has been available.

Following requests from consumers, the food industry and trading partners, NZFSA published a proposal for a regulatory framework for all unpasteurised milk products that would allow all those that meet safety standards to be produced, sold, imported and exported. An updated proposal was published in May this year (available here). http://www.nzfsa.govt.nz/dairy/publications/consultation/unpasteurised-milk-products/raw-milk-products-discussion-document-final.pdf

The agency received 12 submissions in response to the proposal; these are not publically available but food safety minister Kate Wilkinson has said that none of them rejects the proposal, according to the National Business Reporter.

Submissions will be accepted until August. Should the proposal be accepted, the regulatory framework could be in place by the end of this year.

Safety and permissions

Unpasteurised milk products can pose problems to human health, since pathogens such as Listeria monocytogenes​, Campylobacter spp​. and E. coli​ can multiply to unsafe levels. However many unpasteurised milk products have intrinsic properties that mean the pathogens are eliminated from the end product or cannot multiply – or they undergo additional processing.

In many other parts of the world unpasteurised milk products are produced; the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission, whose food safety standards are used as a basis to settle trade disputes, provides for such products to be manufactured under its Code of Hygienic Practice for Milk and Milk Products​.

The NZFSA proposal lays out a framework for unpasteurised products, consisting of:

  • Processes to group unpasteurised milk products by hazed posed;
  • requirements for on-farm and processing techniques;
  • proposed specifications for some products under the Animal Products act 1999;
  • revised import standards;
  • risk communications and educative material for vulnerable consumers;
  • labelling to indicate presence of unpasturised milk

The agency would also be responsible for developing guidance materials for industry operators, importers, third party agencies and others on the technical and legal requirements for manufacture and import.

Related topics: R&D