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Parliamentary debates and questions

S5W-18357: Alexander Burnett (Aberdeenshire West)

Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party

Date lodged: 21 August 2018

To ask the Scottish Government what its position is on removing the ban on the sale of raw milk.

Answered by: Joe FitzPatrick 5 September 2018

There are no plans to remove the ban on the sale of raw milk in Scotland.

Raw drinking milk (and cream) has historically been recognised as a high risk to public health due to its association with a number of food poisoning outbreaks, mainly Salmonella, Campylobacter and E. coli O157 infection, and 12 potentially associated deaths in Scotland.

To mitigate this risk mandatory pasteurisation of raw cows’ drinking milk was introduced in Scotland in 1983, and extended to drinking milk from all farmed animals in 2006. Since these controls were put in place illnesses linked to the consumption of raw milk in Scotland have virtually disappeared.

Food Standards Scotland advises Ministers on food safety matters and have confirmed that mandatory pasteurisation is consistent with the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food advice, who recommend pasteurisation as the key critical control point in the prevention of milk borne disease. It is also in line with the recommendations of the E.coli Task Force Report from 2001, commissioned after 21 people died in a major food poisoning outbreak in Wishaw in 1996, which highlighted the raw milk ban in Scotland as a positive step in protecting consumers from the risks of E.coli O157. Mandatory pasteurisation also protects the wider community, as milk borne pathogens such as E.coli O157 are known to be transmitted through person to person contact.

The most recent scientific review, published in January 2015, was conducted by experts from the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) Panel on Biological Hazards. This scientific opinion on public health risks associated with raw milk in the EU concludes that raw milk can be a source of harmful bacteria – mainly Campylobacter, Salmonella and Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) - including E. coli O157 - and Listeria monocytogenes. The EFSA opinion identifies further hazards but these are not considered to be a significant risk in Scotland or the UK.

Given the historical evidence and weight of expert scientific opinion in favour of mandatory pasteurisationto protect public health, there are currently no plans to lift the ban on direct sales of raw drinking milk in Scotland.