Consumer Affairs Victoria warns about raw milk risks

Consumer Affairs Victoria is warning Victorians not to drink or eat unpasteurised milk products, after a child died and several others suffered illness after consuming ‘bath milk’.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Dr Rosemary Lester has warned that drinking raw milk can be harmful to your health, no matter how carefully it was produced.

“Everyone is vulnerable to illness caused by the pathogens present in raw milk, but the risks are even greater for young children and for the elderly, those with underlying health problems, immunocompromised or pregnant,” Dr Lester said.

Illnesses associated with drinking unpasteurised milk can range from mild vomiting and diarrhoea, to serious illness such as Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome (HUS) and cryptosporidiosis.

HUS is a rare but serious condition caused by bacteria that affects the kidneys and the bloodstream. Cryptosporidiosis is a parasitic infection that commonly presents as gastroenteritis with watery diarrhoea.

It is illegal to sell unpasteurised cow’s milk for human consumption in Australia. In Victoria, it is also illegal to package, deliver or provide raw milk for human consumption.

Raw milk may be labelled and sold for cosmetic use – for example, as ‘bath’ milk – and can appear similar to other milk products. It must carry warning labels.

Some people buy raw milk products to consume, despite the warning labels. Raw milk products are often displayed near pasteurised milk products and the packaging can be similar.

Director of Consumer Affairs Victoria Claire Noone said regulators would review marketing practices relating to the sale of raw milk, including packaging and labelling.

“We are working with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to assess whether there are any contraventions of the Australian Consumer Law,” Dr Noone said.

“Consumer Affairs Victoria is alerting parents, carers and maternal and child health workers in Victoria to the risks,” she said.

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