CHB raw milk farm is re­fus­ing to sign rules

CHB Mail - - NEWWS - BY SAHIBAN HYDE

The Cen­tral Hawke’s Bay raw milk farm raided by the Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries has called the bluff of the Gov­ern­ment, say­ing it will refuse to sign up to manda­tory reg­u­la­tions.

Lind­say Farm in Waipuku­rau, one of New Zealand’s largest raw milk pro­duc­ers, says MPI’s reg­u­la­tion of the raw milk in­dus­try is “un­fit for pur­pose” and must change.

But MPI says rules ex­ist for a rea­son, and un­reg­is­tered sup­pli­ers are putting con­sumer health at risk.

Lind­say Farm was raided in De­cem­ber as part of na­tion­wide raids on un­reg­is­tered or non-com­pli­ant raw milk sup­pli­ers. MPI con­ducted the raids af­ter a two-year re­view of the Raw Milk for Sale to Con­sumers Reg­u­la­tions 2015.

Lind­say Farm is a fam­i­ly­owned op­er­a­tion run by Paul and Chris­tine Ash­ton, Chris­tine’s fa­ther Bryan Dono­van, Mike Ash­ton, their el­dest son, and Ange Brooks, their el­dest daugh­ter.

It did not sign up to MPI’s reg­u­la­tions, but es­tab­lished a farm part­ner­ship which al­lowed for­mer cus­tomers to join at no cost, be­com­ing part­ners in the own­er­ship of their herd of cows.

They milk the cows, and vol­un­teers de­liver milk to a col­lec­tion point, with part­ners pay­ing for the ser­vice.

Paul Ash­ton said they be­lieved they al­ways acted within the law, and will not reg­is­ter to the reg­u­la­tory frame­work they con­sider un­fit for pur­pose.

“We have a suc­cess­ful and safe op­er­a­tion that works for our cus­tomers, who are be­ing de­nied free­dom of choice by the reg­u­la­tions,” he said. “Our food safety pro­ce­dures are best prac­tice. We ex­ceed the reg­u­la­tory guide­lines for har­vest­ing, test­ing, bot­tling and stor­ing our milk.”

The MPI reg­u­la­tions al­low raw milk (not pas­teurised, stan­dard­ised or ho­mogenised) to be sold by farm­ers, but only on-premise or de­liv­ered to a cus­tomer’s home.

The reg­u­la­tions also im­pose an au­dit scheme on farm­ers that many see as oner­ous, ex­pen­sive and in­ef­fec­tive, Ash­ton said.

The reg­u­la­tions failed to ad­dress lo­gis­ti­cal, food safety, and en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns as­so­ci­ated with dis­tri­bu­tion.

“As the reg­u­la­tions stand, peo­ple have to travel a long way to a farm to col­lect milk from a vend­ing ma­chine, or pro­duc­ers have to de­liver the milk to peo­ple’s gates or mail boxes,” Ash­ton said. “This is ex­pen­sive and time­con­sum­ing for ev­ery­one. And when milk is de­liv­ered, it can be left out in the sun for longer than is de­sir­able. It’s also not great for the car­bon foot­print.

“We want to be able to de­liver raw milk ev­ery day to clean, safe, cer­ti­fied and chilled col­lec­tion points, so that peo­ple can come and col­lect their milk,” he said.

“Our po­si­tion is that there is no jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for the ac­tion that MPI has taken against Lind­say Farm and other pro­duc­ers. There is a more sen­si­ble way of do­ing things.”

At the time of the raid MPI’s man­ager of food com­pli­ance, Melinda Sando, said the pur­pose of the co­or­di­nated site vis­its was to gather ev­i­dence of the of­fend­ing and to al­low fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion of non­com­pli­ant sales.

Ash­ton wanted MPI to work with raw milk pro­duc­ers to al­low col­lec­tion points for raw milk cus­tomers, and adopt the best-prac­tice safety meth­ods that they and other raw milk pro­duc­ers use.

“We want MPI to work with raw milk providers like us to help the growth and sus­tain­abil­ity of qual­ity, small-scale farm­ing en­ter­prises that can con­ve­niently and safely sat­isfy the grow­ing con­sumer de­mand for raw milk.”

Mark Hous­ton, a Takaka farmer who chairs the Raw Milk Pro­duc­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of New Zealand, rep­re­sent­ing 35 mem­bers in­clud­ing Lind­say Farm, agreed with the need for change.

“When the reg­u­la­tions were about to be in­tro­duced in 2016, the As­so­ci­a­tion said that the reg­u­la­tions went too far in ban­ning col­lec­tion points, which re­duces ac­cess for con­sumers, es­pe­cially in ur­ban ar­eas.

“We con­tinue to hold this view.”

Hous­ton said pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion on the reg­u­la­tions showed over­whelm­ing sup­port for raw milk pro­duc­ers.

A pe­ti­tion to Par­lia­ment at change.org that started last De­cem­ber, Save our raw milk farms, at­tracted 5000 sig­na­tures by Christ­mas, and now has more than 18,000.

“By not ad­her­ing to the rules for sell­ing raw drink­ing milk, un­reg­is­tered sup­pli­ers are putting con­sumer health at risk,” An MPI spokes­woman said.

She said rules ex­isted for a rea­son and con­sumers wanted to be able to trust their source of raw milk.

“In­ves­ti­ga­tion into the con­duct of Lind­say Farms in re­spect of the sup­ply of raw drink­ing milk is on­go­ing.

“We are un­able to com­ment on fur­ther de­tail.”

PHOTO / SUP­PLIED

Mike Ash­ton milk­ing cows at Lind­say Farm, one of NZ’s largest raw-milk sup­pli­ers.

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