There has been an angry reaction to new regulations imposed on people selling raw milk - but the Ministry for Primary Industries says the rules are needed because drinking it is high risk.

A number of Chronicle readers were annoyed to hear the new rules are putting two local producers out of business - Chananel Farm on State Highway 3 south of Whanganui, and Rudolf and Carlie van Dijk of Village Milk in Marton.

However, a Google search turns up a scattering of New Zealand examples of illness attributed to pathogens in raw milk.

The ministry has set new rules for raw milk sellers which come into full force on November 1. In the meantime, it is holding workshops to help farmers comply.

Advertisement

The rules have been subject to consultation and strike a balance between the increased demand for raw milk and its risk to human health, a spokeswoman said.

"We recognise that these changes will have an impact on some businesses, however we cannot take shortcuts for food safety, particularly when dealing with high-risk foods such as raw milk."

The new regulations include testing milk for potentially harmful bacteria, keeping records of sales and labelling it. Producers will have to be registered with the ministry, and have their operations checked at least twice a year. They will only be able to sell from their farms, or by making home deliveries.

Raw milk can harbour listeria, campylobacter and E. coli bacteria, and is said to be especially dangerous for people with weakened immune systems, the elderly, pregnant women and children.

The risk is reduced if the milk is heated to 70C for a minute before use, and if it has been kept cold.

News that two of our region's businesses are closing as a result of the regulations has sparked about 50 dismayed comments on the Chronicle's Facebook page.

Diane Cranstone said consumers should be able to drink raw milk if they are willing to take the risk.

Kathryn Ann Hansen-Stork said drinking it straight from the vat never harmed her or her family and things were too PC these days. "No wonder illnesses run rampant if people are not exposed to good ole germs."

Janet Wakeling said her daughter got relief from itching after drinking raw milk supplied by Edo Mooij in Okoia.

Only microbiologist Kyle Larsen said drinking raw milk could be very dangerous, and he personally would not drink it.

In Whangarei raw milk seller Chris Lethbridge was asked to stop supply after two outbreaks of illness in the last six months were linked to his Wholy Moo business. Both children and adults were affected, and regularly drank his milk.

The most recent outbreak was infection with toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7, which can kill in severe cases.

Mr Lethbridge's milk was tested and did contain the bacteria but he said the link was not proven.

According to online encyclopedia Wikipedia people can get that strain of E. coli from eating raw green leaf vegetables and undercooked meat - but raw milk is the commonest source.

In 2014 a Melbourne 3-year-old died from kidney failure and a blood condition brought on by the same bacteria.

In March 2014 a Timaru supplier was blamed for seven cases of campylobacter.

Ministry of Health data shows five disease outbreaks attributable to raw milk from 2007-09 and 16 between 2010 and 2012, and a report said many more are not reported.