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Preserving the future of Raw Milk in the UK

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On Monday 31st March, the FSA (Food Standards Agency) held a public consultation in London on the future of regulations for the sale of raw milk in the UK. It sought to clarify the already strict rules for the sale of raw milk in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Raw milk sales are and will remain prohibited in Scotland. This consultation is part of a series of public consultations that have been conducted since January, and should lead to a decision from the FSA in May this year.

Slow Food UK has always defended small scale artisan producers, traditional techniques and culinary traditions. We are deeply concerned about the irrationally strict hygiene standards that threaten our cultural heritage. After the FSA Consultation this Monday, Shane Holland, Board member representative for England and London group leader, declared, “The FSA is confusing probability for possibility. There are a significant number of foods such as seafoods which are eaten in a natural state and carry a significantly higher risk to health, yet we can choose to consume without warning labels, and in shops. The FSA must allow us to choose to buy quality foods as informed consumers”. Unpasteurised milk (raw milk) is sometimes believed to carry a greater risk than pasteurised milk because it is a live food that contains probiotic bacteria, but in fact no diseases or health problems related to the consumption of raw milk have been reported in the UK for at least 17 years. Raw milk, when coming from grass-fed, grazing animals, has two major advantages compared to pasteurised milk. First , the biodiversity of microflora in raw milk product has been proven to have a very beneficial effect on our health, and that also includes kids, pregnant women and elderly people. Secondly, milk of pastured animals is much more likely to contain more “good” fats than milk from intensively farmed, indoor-raised livestock. Nonetheless, the lobby for pasteurised milk continues to pressurise small producers to conform to the “norm”. This opposition to raw milk at the same time as demand for Raw Milk has increased greatly over the last 15 years. As Gerry Danby points out in his blog, Artisan Food Law, “there is significant unmet consumer demand which raw milk vending machines could do much to meet”. It is therefore crucial to ensure that raw milk producers are able sell their products to the consumers who are asking for them: these are issues about freedom of consumer choice.

Raw milk products and raw milk cheeses are a very important part of the culinary heritage of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and we must make sure that regulation from the FSA will not further endanger small scale farmers and raw milk producers. Margaret Rees, Slow Food UK Board member and representative for Wales, an active advocate of raw milk cheese production in Wales, said ” I started buying raw milk cheese from Teifi valley Cheese Makers in 1984 when I opened a restaurant and continue to support this high quality cheese maker for my cheese making courses”. John Savage, of Caws Teifi Cheese, is one of Britain’s top raw milk cheese makers, and one of the people who is directly concerned with potential further regulations on internet sales and raw milk vending machines. He declared, ” if breast milk were to be tested in a laboratory and were subjected to the same criteria for raw milk products, it would be condemned as unfit for human consumption! In my experience, raw milk products made from the milk of a healthy animal are the most wholesome and nutritious foods available to humankind. It is literally ‘the milk of human kindness'”.

A growing number of high-quality cheese makers and raw milk producers throughout the UK need your help and support to make sure their expertise and traditional know-how doesn’t get lost because of repressive food laws. Some of those producers and their products, including a variety of raw milk cheeses, are part of our Ark of Taste Forgotten Foods Programme, which gives them more visibility and helps them promote their wonderful products.

We are calling all members and supporters of Slow Food UK to take a pledge in defense of Raw Milk with us. If you are a regular consumer, a raw milk professional or simply believe that consumers should be free to make their own food choices, please participate in the online consultation.  It is of the utmost importance that as many people as possible share their concerns and beliefs on the topic, as this is the only way to make sure future regulations will respect consumers’ freedom of choice. Keep in mind that the consultation will close on Thursday, 30th of April, so this is the last moment if you want to speak out!

Slow Food International, through the Slow Cheese campaign, has been defending and promoting raw milk production and consumption for several years. You can read the Slow Food Manifesto in defense of Raw Milk Cheese, and find out more about the dangers and benefits of raw milk on the Slow Food International website.



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