Home Gastrointestinal Charges laid against nine raw milk suppliers after 12-month investigation

Charges laid against nine raw milk suppliers after 12-month investigation

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MannaMilk owners Phillippa and John Martin are among those charged by the ministry.

Stuff

MannaMilk owners Phillippa and John Martin are among those charged by the ministry.

Nine raw milk suppliers accused of putting consumer health at risk are facing criminal proceedings.

The Ministry for Primary Industries laid charges against the suppliers this week, following a 12-month investigation.

During a co-ordinated sting in December 2019, ministry staff shut down sales of raw milk from dairy farms in Manawatū, Horowhenua, Auckland, Hawke’s Bay, Nelson and Southland.

During the raids, 62 compliance officers seized everything from client lists to computer hard drives.

READ MORE:
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* Horowhenua raw milk company defends practice following ministry raid

Of the farms raided, five had partnership or heard share agreements and two were selling raw milk as cosmetic or bath milk.

The distribution methods used via these agreements are illegal under rules that came into effect in 2016.

They require dairy farmers to register if they want to produce raw milk, and follow hygiene rules for bottling, storing and distributing the milk.

Ministry for Primary Industries compliance director Gary Orr confirmed on Friday charges have been laid.

John Hawkins

Ministry for Primary Industries compliance director Gary Orr confirmed on Friday charges have been laid.

That’s because unpasteurised milk that hasn’t been treated carries more risk of food poisoning and has been linked to gastrointestinal outbreaks.

Gary Orr, the ministry’s director of compliance services, confirmed the charges in a statement to Stuff on Friday.

The charges vary from supplier to supplier, but relate to failing to comply with the Animal Products Act, breaches of notices and obstruction.

In some cases it is alleged the failure to comply was with the knowledge they could create a risk to human health.

Phillippa Martin, who owns MannaMilk with husband John, is defending their operation, south of Levin, as safer than what the law mandates.

She was unaware the charges had been laid when Stuff contacted her on Friday morning.

Martin was shocked the ministry had released the information publicly without notifying the affected suppliers.

A ministry spokesman said charges were filed in the courts before defendants were notified. This could take days or weeks.

Martin said lawyers had advised them the ministry didn’t have jurisdiction over a limited partnership model. But the system is untested in court.

Officials say unregistered suppliers of raw milk are putting consumer health at risk.

Murray Wilson/Stuff

Officials say unregistered suppliers of raw milk are putting consumer health at risk.

Earlier in the week, Rangitīkei MP Ian McKelvie said he was surprised the ministry took 12 months to conduct its investigation.

Meanwhile, farmers were left in limbo.

“It must be very frustrating for the farmers concerned. I also find it interesting MPI are not keeping the farmers up to date with their decision-making progress.”

The new regulations came about after raw milk was responsible for a significant gastro outbreak in Timaru in 2014.

It resulted in seven people contracting campylobacter, New Zealand’s most notified gastrointestinal disease.

In response, the Government tightened hygiene standards, while any milk delivered off-farm required customers to sign for it and volumes to be recorded.

Farms were required to store milk in ministry-registered vending machines or secure fridge depots, where the milk could be picked up by customers.

However, it’s alleged some suppliers found a loophole to avoid the associated compliance costs, which are said to be between $10,000 and $20,000.

A briefing to former Food Safety Minister Damien O’Connor, obtained by Stuff earlier this year, stated the ministry was losing about $60,000 and $75,000 a year since the new regulations came into play.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/300181309/charges-laid-against-nine-raw-milk-suppliers-after-12month-investigation

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