Members of the public are being reminded of the importance of only drinking milk that has been pasteurised.
According to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), drinking raw milk can pose serious health risks to consumers. This is also the view of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which has just published an expert opinion on this issue.
The FSAI emphasised that pathogens such as Salmonella, Listeria and E.coli can be found in raw milk and can cause serious foodborne illnesses.
"These bacteria can be particularly serious for vulnerable groups such as young children, pregnant women, the elderly and the immune-compromised. Both national and international studies have found that these harmful bacteria can be present in raw milk in low numbers and that pasteurisation or boiling can effectively eliminate the risk of potential food poisoning," the authority said.
It pointed out that in recent months, it has studied a number of international reports ‘which show that children are at real risk when drinking raw milk'.
"In Australia, the death of a child and the hospitalisation of four others were associated with drinking raw milk in December last year. In the UK, six cases of E.coli, including five cases in children, were linked to farms selling raw milk from cows late last year," explained FSAI chief executive, Prof Alan Reilly.
He said that while the FSAI recognises that on-farm hygiene and animal health have improved greatly in recent years, there remains a risk ‘that contamination of milk with pathogens of faecal origin can occur during the milking process and this necessitates pasteurisation of milk to make it safe for direct human consumption'.
The FSAI added that even with the best hygiene standards, ‘it is possible that raw milk can pose serious health risks'.
Discussions on this topic are now closed.