Consumer interest in raw drinking milk from cows (“RDM”) has been growing in England, Wales and Northern Ireland over the last few years and many celebrate its health benefits and hail RDM as a “superfood”. More and more dairy farmers are choosing to diversify their businesses and sell unpasteurised milk directly from the farm gate.
The law surrounding RDM production
Selling raw cow’s milk in Scotland is actually banned, but it is legal in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The bacteria in RDM that can benefit some people is dangerous to others and in June 2018 the Food Standards Agency (“FSA”) issued guidance on the legal requirements for selling RDM to ensure that RDM producers are adhering to the highest of productions standards.
The guidance should be read in conjunction with the Food Hygiene Regulations 2006 for Wales and 2013 for England but is summarised below:
- FSA Registration: RDM sellers must register with the FSA. If the sale of RDM is distributed to the point of sale, then you must register as a distributor.
- TB free status: Supply herd must be healthy and free from bovine tuberculosis. If there is a suspected illness linked to your holding then all RCDM sales must stop and you should carry out a product recall and withdraw produce.
- Production Standards: Production holding, milking premises and dairy must comply with hygiene rules.
- Distribution: You can deliver the RDM in a domestic vehicle provided you adhere to the following stipulations:
- You will be classed as a 'distributor' because the sale has not taken place at the farm gate
- You must run this area of the business as a separate entity - as a Limited Company
- The intended vehicle must be registered as a milk float with your local authority as it will been classed as a 'shop premises'
- Farmers’ Market: Not all farmers' markets are registered to sell RDM - you will need to check with your local authority. The principal producer, representative involved in the production process or member of the family must attend the stall (i.e. you cannot employ someone who has no contact with the farm to sell RDM.)
- Selling RDM in other locations: You cannot sell or give away free samples of RDM at the following events: town markets, village fetes, school fetes, pop concerts, horse events, car boot sales, agricultural shows (one day or multiple days), layby on the side of a road. These locations are not considered as extensions of the farm. Free samples would still be classified as a sale.
- Labelling and health warnings: RDM must be labelled with the appropriate health warning. In England, RDM must state: “This milk has not been heat treated and may contain organisms harmful to health.” Cream must be clearly labelled 'made with raw milk'.
- Refrigeration: Keep RDM refrigerated. If delivering RDM to consumers, it is advisable to have a cooling and recording system in place.
- Containers for RDM: If RDM is distributed in containers, those containers must have a fastenings system which must not be broken when the consumer receives the product.
- Use-by dates: should be clearly displayed.
In February this year, the FSA launched a consultation on enhanced controls on the production of RDM direct for human consumption that closes in April 2019.
Raw Milk Producers Association launch
On 4 March 2019, the UK's first Raw Milk Producers Association (“RMPA”) was launched to protect future sales of raw milk. The RMPA will work closely with the government in order to provide better support and guidance for dairy farmers across the country who are selling RDM.
The RMPA will bring together RDM producers together, offer networking and training opportunities, provide Government-endorsed guidance to producers and an online forum where knowledge and experiences of producers can be shared.
The RMPA aims to:
- Bring RDM producers together and provide networking and training opportunities.
- Provide official Government-endorsed guidance to producers on production standards, dairy hygiene and microbiological testing.
- Provide a liaison service between raw milk producers and Government
- Provide an online forum where producers can share knowledge and experiences.
Further information can be found on the RMPA website: https://www.rawmilkproducers.co.uk.
Importance of Taking Legal Advice
Please be aware that reliance should not be placed on this article in substitution for the taking of legal advice specific to your circumstances. If you are considering diversifying your business and have any agriculture related queries our Agriculture and Equine teams would be delighted to hear from you. Should you have any questions contact Lucy Chambers on 01603 281183.