The Ministry for Primary Industries has fired a stark warning to unregistered retailers of raw milk, warning them to stop selling the product until they comply with New Zealand law.

Raw or unpasteurised milk isn't heat-treated to remove bacteria like E. coli, listeria and campylobacter, and could lead to serious illness.

In a bid to gather evidence against unregulated retailers, MPI executed search warrants at illegitimate businesses in Auckland, Hawke's Bay, Manawatū, Horowhenua, Nelson and Southland following a year-long operation.

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MPI's manager of food compliance Melinda Sando said these retailers were putting consumer health at risk.

In addition, the suppliers had been using various tactics to try and get around MPI to continue selling their product, selling it as bath or pet milk, Sando said.

"We believe that the suppliers we visited ... are operating outside of the regulatory framework," she said.

"These tactics are not legal in our view and are a way of getting around the regulations and avoiding the costs associated with being compliant, including food safety testing costs, registration costs and audit costs.

"There have been multiple instances in the past of people getting sick after drinking raw milk from some of these suppliers. We can't let this continue."

In most cases, bacteria from raw milk only causes diarrhoea and vomiting, however, it can lead to miscarriage, paralysis, meningitis and kidney problems.

Sando said it was important people didn't think they were banning consumers from drinking raw milk, just that they could make a choice with confidence the product was produced within a regulated framework.

The sale of raw drinking milk was regulated under the Raw Milk for Sale to Consumers Regulations 2015 in March, 2016.

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It meant farmers who sold raw drinking milk needed to register with MPI and follow specific hygiene rules when harvesting, bottling, storing and distributing the milk.

They also needed to regularly test their milk and keep contact details for their customers so they could be contacted if bacteria was found in their product.

"Purchasing from MPI registered suppliers who are being audited regularly to ensure they are managing risks and testing regularly helps consumers reduce the risks if they choose to drink this product," Sando said.

Sando said suppliers in question had been using various tactics in an attempt to continue selling their product, including selling it as bath milk or pet milk.

"These tactics are not legal in our view and are a way of getting around the regulations and avoiding the costs associated with being compliant including food safety testing costs, registration costs and audit costs.

"We make no apologies for holding to account people who are breaching the regulations. The rules exist for a reason – to protect human health."