Outbreak puts raw milk in spotlight
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has dismissed criticism that it shares responsibility for an outbreak of food poisoning linked to a raw milk vending machine at Low Sizergh Barn farm shop.
An investigation, run by local authorities and the FSA, has uncovered 12 “confirmed” campylobacter cases and 53 “probables” linked to the Lake District retailer, which is one of more than 50 businesses selling raw milk from DF Italia MOD milk vending machines.
Johnny Crickmore of Suffolk’s Fen Farm Dairy, which supplied the machine to the Cumbrian farm shop said the FSA’s approach to raw milk sales are “rubbish” because it doesn’t require testing for pathogens like campylobacter.
“All you have to do is wait for the FSA to come round every three months and test your milk just for levels of bacteria. They don’t even go into telling you that you should be testing for pathogens.”
The FSA confirmed that it did not routinely test for campylobacter.
“It is the responsibility of the raw drinking milk producer to produce a safe product and to carry out the testing required to show that hygiene controls are being applied effectively,” a spokeswoman said.
Low Sizergh Barn ceased sales once the infection was confirmed and issued a recall of raw cows’ drinking milk from the vending machine, shop and café “as a precautionary measure”.
FFD understands that one lead investigators are pursuing is that the campylobacter could have come from the farm shop’s own private water supply, contaminated by birds.
Alison Park, who owns Low Sizergh Barn with brother Richard, said the private water supply was “one of a whole list of possibilities” that the FSA and environmental health said was a risk.
“We have developed very rigorous HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) and standards with environmental health. This outbreak of campylobacter came from behind. It wasn’t a bug we were aware of and wasn’t one we were required to test for so it’s been a real eye-opener for us and will be a learning experience.”
She said to find out the farm’s milk had been linked to illness was “really devastating”.
She said the farm was changing some of its processes and practices and hoped to sell raw milk again when safe to do so.