Agri-food leaders hit out at Government plan to ban raw milk

CONSUMERS will lose a unique product if the Government drives ahead with its plan to ban raw milk sales, warn agri-food leaders.

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA), the Slow Food movement and leading food vendors have been campaigning for over a year to dissuade the Government from implementing the ban.

Opponents say the ban is seeking to stamp out a problem that doesn’t exist.

Unpasteurised milk is not currently available in retail outlets. Slow Food Ireland’s Darina Allen is a long-time defender of raw milk. It is widely available in Italy, but is banned in the US and Australia. The ban is scheduled to come into force in Ireland later this year.

ICSA executive researcher, Gillian Westbrook, said: “The decision should be that of the consumer, whereas Ireland is adopting an American-style approach to food regulation. There are currently no guidelines or regulations in place to deal with the sale of raw milk. The FSAI’s approach to attempt to regulate it is an outright ban, this is a narrow-minded approach to the issue. This is just another piece of legislation to work against the farmer.”

Ms Westbrook said raw milk production receives appropriate monitoring and evaluation, noting that the lack of formal guidelines should not justify an outright ban.

“Instead there needs to be discussion as to what suitable systems are required,” she said.

Food Safety Authority studies suggest raw milk contains pathogens which could be harmful to children, older people and pregnant women.

Kevin Sheridan of Sheridan’s Cheesemongers said: “The proposed ban on raw milk is, I believe, a huge over-reaction by the state; regulation and good working practices by our farmers and food producers has always given the Irish people good quality, safe food.

“We cannot allow the state to take away the right for our farmers to produce and share this product in its natural state. By banning raw milk we are sending the message to the world that we don’t trust our regulators, we don’t trust our farmers and we don’t trust our milk.”

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

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