This page is a summary of the timeline of interaction with the government relating to the sale of raw milk in Ireland. How the government wanted to ban raw milk, and why and how we argued the point.
Current Minister: Michael Creed
This page includes a selection of documents and correspondence with Department of Agriculture, Department of Health and Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI).
Most sections are archives of the updates that we featured on the website and in social media over the years to keep everyone up to date with the status of the campaign.
The information on this page makes for particularly interesting reading when you work back from the original stance by the then Minister, Simon Coveney and his civil servant 'advisers' - that a ban on raw milk was both imminent and guaranteed in 2011.
You can scroll through all of the information or select items of interest here.
We have had lots of recent communication with Department of Agriculture regarding sale of raw milk in Ireland. A new Statutory Instrument has now been introduced. This defines the terms small and local regarding the unregulated sale of raw milk. From here on in all producers selling more than 30 litres of milk per week are now obliged to register with Department Agriculture and also to follow best practise as set out in EU Hygiene Regulations. We are also working on a set of extra industry speciifc guidelines which are particular to the sale of raw liquid milk.
This is a very positive step forward for both consumers and raw milk producers. It balances the need for informed consumer choice and the necessity to ensure that producers take steps to minimise any potential risks. An open dialogue is now taking place between regulators and farmers, and a relationship of trust is being established. Raw liquid Milk is legal to sell and buy in Ireland!
February 2015 Position of the Department of Agriculture:
May 2012 The Party Line..
Latest Response to parliamentary questions from Anne Ferris TD and Kevin Humphries TD querying the status of the proposed ban on sale of raw milk - questions were posed to both Minister for Health and Minister for Agriculture with the same response received from both as follows:
(Latest answer received 24th May 2012)
"The proposed renewal of the ban on the sale of raw milk for direct human consumption has been the subject of detailed consideration in both my Department and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, including contacts at Ministerial and official level. Careful consideration has to be given to the legal options available to move the issue forward and the deliberative process in that regard is ongoing."
December 2011 Department of health corresponds with Sunday Times Journalist Mark Tighe saying that it believes a ban is disproportionate. We received confirmation of this via an email from Department of Health the following May of 2012.
"The Department of Health want to make clear that the Minister's position as outlined in the letter of 7 December, 2011 has not changed i.e. The Minister does not consider that a ban on the sale of raw milk for direct human consumption is proportionate to the public health risks involved.
The Minister has asked his officials to continue to engage with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to ensure that a proportional regulatory system to control the sale of raw milk can be in put in place as quickly as possible."
Press and Communications Office
Department of Health
Joint Oireachtas Committee
October 2011 Both the FSAI and Members of the Campaign for Raw Milk Ireland made presentations to the Joint Oireachtas Agriculture Committee
Full Text of most comprehensive previous Government Response received, dated Thurs 29th September 2011:
Simon Coveney (Minister, Department of Agriculture, the Marine and Food; Cork South Central, Fine Gael) Thursday 29th September
I propose to take Questions Nos. 159 to 162, inclusive, together, and make it clear why I want to Ban Raw Milk.
The proposed ban on the sale of raw milk for direct human consumption is not new. Sale of raw cows milk was banned for many years (from 1997 till 2006) by my Department; and previously by most local authorities. The ban lapsed due to a change in EU legislation in 2006. In 2008 my Department undertook a public consultation regarding extending the ban to include both sheep and goats milk. Seventeen submissions were received. Neither my Department nor the Food Safety Authority of Ireland were convinced that the submissions received provided any justification to oppose the expert advice that the extended ban should be supported in legislation.
My Department’s dairy science and veterinary experts and the independent scientific committee of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland have strongly advised that there are serious health risks associated with drinking raw milk. Disease risks include TB, Brucellosis, E. coli O157, Campylobacter and Salmonella. There have been incidents of these in Ireland and other countries in recent years. Resulting illnesses can be serious and on occasion fatal.
It is intended to bring forward a Statutory Instrument to implement the ban as soon as possible.
Regulation allowing sale of raw milk for direct human consumption, on a restricted basis, would be difficult and costly to implement and would still not eliminate the serious health risks.
It is important to note in this context that the ban will not apply to making cheese using raw milk. The cheese making process takes time and this provides an opportunity to withdraw product from sale in the event of a problem arising with the source milk. The cheese making process also prevents growth of pathogens and in some cases encourages slow decline in numbers of some pathogens.
A number of artisan food producers are pasteurising raw whole milk and are licensed by my Department in this regard. These artisans are very successfully marketing liquid whole milk, ice cream, different flavoured yoghurts and artisan farmhouse cheeses. I am advised by the FSAI that meaningful differences in nutritional value between pasteurised and unpasteurised milk have not been demonstrated and these artisans clearly show that pasteurised whole milk can be used in the manufacture of safe and quality dairy products.
The ban will not apply either to the consumption of raw milk which has not been placed on the market – e.g. a dairy farmer drinking milk from his/her own cows. Such a ban is not possible under the law and in any event would be unenforceable. However, it is recommended to avoid this practice for health reasons.
Provision of data in relation to food poisoning outbreaks is a matter for the Health Service Executive. I have been advised by the FSAI of a number of cases of serious illness associated with raw milk in Ireland in recent years. The FSAI recommends therefore that the sale of unpasteurised milk from all farm animals which is intended for direct human consumption should be prohibited; and advises that the most effective way to protect public health is to ensure that such milk is pasteurised.
The prevalence of TB in herds in Ireland also puts us in a different position to most other Member States in the EU where the disease has been eradicated. It is inappropriate that Ireland should adopt the same approach to the consumption of raw milk as countries that do not have the same difficulty with TB and therefore have no associated risk.
Ireland exports over €2bn worth of dairy products each year; and is the leading producer of infant formula with about 15% of the world market. Any food scare associated with raw Irish milk could have major implications for our dairy industry. The recent E. coli outbreak in Germany, resulting in 46 deaths, 782 cases of HUS (haemolytic uraemic syndrome, a serious kidney condition) and 3,128 known cases of VTEC, indicates the scale of possible risks associated with raw food.
In all the circumstances I am satisfied that a ban on the sale of raw milk for direct human consumption is justified.
2011 Spring - Summer: Prior to updates above after the Dail reconvened from summer holidays, Government Responses to Parliamentary Questions raised in the Dail had been the same in tone and outcome, but slightly less detailed than above.
Response was a standard carbon copy which was released, even when multiple and varied questions were posed by TD's in the Dail as well as in correspondence with TDs who raised the issue in writing with Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Food by letter on behalf of their constituents.
(more or less identical responses were also issued to all the private citizens who wrote letters to their public representatives and direct to Department of Agriculture)
The Following TDs raised this matter via Parliamentary Questions in the Dail during the course of 2011, many more also wrote to the Minister on the issue.
Thomas P. Broughan TD (Dublin North East, Labour), Joe Costello TD (Dublin Central, Labour), Luke Flanagan TD (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Independent), Mary Mitchell O'Connor (Dún Laoghaire, Fine Gael), Paschal Donohoe (Dublin Central, Fine Gael), Seán Fleming (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail), Ciara Conway (Waterford, Labour), Dominic Hannigan (Meath East, Labour), Kevin Humphreys (Dublin South East, Labour), Sandra McLellan (Cork East, Sinn Fein)
Early 2011 The Department of Health in responding to a query as to why they were facilitating this ban said that DAFF had told them that a full public consultation had taken place on the matter (This is untrue, a consultation only in relation to goat's and sheep's milk took place in 2008 - see page 11 of this government submissions document SUBMISSION GOATS SHEEPS PAI Update 30 May 2008)
We contacted The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton to ask him to examine the issue, in particular relating to the business opporunities available from the sale of raw milk to small farmers. Minister Bruton told us the matter was outside his remit.
Responses from the Raw Milk Ireland Campaign
We responded to each and every document released by the government and FSAI, below is one of these which sums up the position of Raw Milk Ireland
In response to the written answer from The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Simon Coveney (July 2011):
On the Matter of Raw Milk - Response to Minister Coveney's Statement by Elisabeth Ryan & Kevin Sheridan of Sheridans Cheesemongers
A blanket ban is a draconian measure. We would like the opportunity to have an open debate on the sale of raw milk with a view to working together to develop sensible codes of best practise so that any risks can be minimised to within an acceptable level.
The central issue here is choice, if a well informed consumer, want to have the choice to drink unprocessed raw milk then why should this choice be denied to them. As a part of a regulatory system labelling can and should be introduced to inform all consumers of potential risks.
Examples furnished by the FSAI in correspondence to slow food Ireland, which we can only presume to be similar to examples furnished to the department of Agriculture by the same health authority, cite unacceptable risks from drinking raw milk and draw our attention to reported cases of illnesses.
Firstly, these cases were all from unregulated producers as there have never been regulations specifically applied for raw milk producers. Secondly, these cases relate to farmers or their families drinking their own milk and not selling it. It will never be possible for the state to legislate against this practise, therefore these types of illnesses are not relevant when discussing as we are – ‘the regulated sale of raw milk’.
We would enquire of the minister as to why there has been no public consultation for raw cow’s milk?
Furthermore, we would ask why this process has been taking place behind closed doors, without the involvement of stakeholders. We were of the understanding that this government led by Fine Gael intended to conduct all of its business in an open and transparent manner. There has been no public consultation on the sale of raw cow’s milk in Ireland in relation to this proposed ban.
It is disappointing to think that because something might be ‘complicated’ to regulate the only other option put forward is a total ban.
By the ministers logic; any new food products coming on to the market should be discouraged as it will cost the state money to inspect them.
Regarding costs, existing producers of raw milk are already being inspected by the Department of Agriculture, indeed the most likely source of raw milk for sale is from our current wonderful raw milk cheese producers who are already subject to current regulations and inspections by the Department of Agriculture.
Also, the vast majority of costs incurred in the regulation of all of our foods are borne by the producer and not by the state in any event.
Currently all herds whose milk is being used in the production of raw milk cheese are tested for TB every 6 months. This is deemed by the Department of Agriculture to be an adequate measure to control the potential risk of transmission of TB through raw milk cheese.
This measure should also be applied in relation to the sale of fresh raw milk.
This measure will negate the ministers concerns over the possible transmission of TB through the sale of raw milk.
In terms of international reputation, by banning raw milk what we are actually doing is sending out a signal of no confidence in our dairy farmers.
Irish farmers continue and will continue to consume their own raw milk there has been no international or national damage to our reputation thus far based on this existing consumption.
Regarding risks – a huge amount of the foods we eat have risks associated, yet we do not ban them, instead we regulate in order to minimise risks. If banning raw milk, why not ban Shell Fish, eggs or even chicken?
In Conclusion, should the government’s aim not be to continue working in partnership with Ireland’s great producers and farmers rather than imposing a total ban without consultation.
There are a number of reasons that would indicate that it is beneficial for the government to take the time to stop and examine this issue further and request a public consultation not least that by banning the sale of raw milk, we are denying small farmers the access to a viable local business opportunity.
These types of ‘Nanny State’ laws where our every decision is taken away from us are very worrying. If we are allowed to decide for ourselves on issues such as whether to drink or smoke then why can we not decide if we want to drink raw milk; a pure and natural product.
We would call for the Minister to reconsider his position and give us the opportunity to put our arguments and responses forward in an appropriate forum.
8th July 2011
Question submitted to EU commission on behalf of Euro-toques Ireland
by Liam Aylward MEP regarding raw milk
Question for written answer E-005044/2011
to the Commission
Liam Aylward (ALDE)
Subject: Raw milk production and sale in the EU and Ireland
There has been a noticeable rise in the number of consumers seeking to purchase raw milk for health and taste reasons over the past few years. At present on-farm and retail sales of raw milk are permitted in a number of Member States and are fully compliant with health and safety criteria in these Member States.
Research increasingly demonstrates the benefits of raw milk, and recent studies carried out in the EU identified raw milk as a strong factor in reducing the risk of allergies, eczema and asthma in children.
While there were health and safety concerns with raw milk in the past, the higher standards, testing and strict inspections that farmers adhere to lower the risks substantially.
The potential economic benefits from the sale of raw milk to the dairy sector and local communities would be significant, and there would be subsequent benefits for food producers seeking to use raw milk in their products.
In Ireland alone over 100 000 consumers currently have access to raw milk on a daily basis. However, all consumers should have the freedom of choice and opportunity to purchase this beneficial and healthy natural product.
1. What is the Commission’s position on the production and sale of unpasteurised milk in the EU?
2. Does the Commission intend to draw up a protocol for best practice for the production and sale of unpasteurised milk in the EU?
3. What measures can the Commission put in place to assist farmers and give them the flexibility and support to bring this product to the market and meet a demand that is there from consumers?
4. What is the Commission’s position on consumers in certain Member States being deprived of the opportunity to purchase unpasteurised milk?
Answer given by Mr Dalli on behalf of the Commission
Food safety requirements for production of raw milk in the EU are laid down in Annex II section IX to Regulation (EC) 853/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 laying down specific hygiene rules for food of animal origin.
Direct sales to consumers of unprocessed agricultural products such as raw milk are possible when specific requirements are met. The Member States may establish stricter rules for sales of raw milk to the final consumer.
It shall not be underestimated that potential benefits for consumers of raw milk may be annulled by the presence of zoonotic pathogenic bacteria. Some like Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Brucella bovis are subject to controls in dairy herds under EU law but Listeria monocytogenes and VTEC are not and can occasionally create serious disease conditions in humans. Indeed some Member States require a warning for consumers to boil the milk before consumption and not to consume it raw.
Farmers interested in developing these possible marketing opportunities, shall be aware of the higher hygiene standards required and food safety risks associated for which they will be held responsible under current food law provisions. Options for funding specific quality schemes can be explored under rural development programmes.
Member States are allowed under Article 10 point 8(a) of Regulation (EC) 853/2004 also to prohibit the placing on the market of raw milk/of raw cream intended for direct human consumption subject to the general provisions of the Treaty.
For the above reasons the Commission is not planning to draw up a protocol for best practice for the production and sale of unpasteurised milk in the EU.
The Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (DAFF) banned the sale of raw cow's milk in 1996.
The EU directive in 2006 superseded this ban.
In 2008 a public consultation took place on whether to extend the previous ban to goat's and sheep's milk.
Things rested so.
In late 2010 members of the food community realised the implication of the EU directive and a small number of farmers began to sell raw milk.
In 2011 the government then stated it was introducing a ban on the advise of the FSAI. This ban was to be enacted using a statutory instrument promoted by the Department of Health on behalf of DAFF -this means that it was to be an amendment to current legislation and did not have to be put to the Dail for a vote.
DAFF told us that the timeframe for the ban to be finalised was before end of 2011 - this allowed for a mandatory three month notification period to the EU - End September then was to be the latest time that the ban potentially went ahead.