The Swedish Food Agency (Livsmedelsverket) has hit back at claims that raw milk rules in the country are too strict.
An opinion article in Svenska Dagbladet said unpasteurized, raw milk is almost impossible to buy in Sweden and the regulations are an example of when state control has good intentions but negative consequences.
Ann-Helene Meyer von Bremen and Martin Ragnar said the rules place too much emphasis on the risks and not enough attention is given to the benefits.
In Sweden, unpasteurized milk cannot be bought in shops but it can be sold or given away from farms directly to the consumer. Farms that want to sell unpasteurized milk must register with their local authority.
Once registered, they can sell up to 70 liters of unpasteurized milk per week to the public. Written information must be provided to consumers saying milk is unpasteurized and that it may contain harmful bacteria. The recommendation is that milk should be boiled or used in dishes that are heat treated before consumption. Children and people with weakened immune systems should not drink the milk without prior heat treatment.
In reply to the article, Mats Lindblad, from Livsmedelsverket, said it is not true that there is a low risk from drinking unpasteurized milk, as it can contain several different types of bacteria that can make people sick.
E. coli, a bacteria sometimes found in cows, was given as an example. It can have very serious consequences as infection can damage the kidneys of young children and lead to death in severe cases.
One of the main aims of Livsmedelsverket is to ensure that consumers do not get sick from food. Sale of unpasteurized milk is regulated and this is cited as a likely explanation for so few related illnesses in recent years.
The agency said it had looked at both the benefits and risks of drinking unpasteurized milk, acknowledging studies on vitamin content of milk before and after pasteurization and a reduction in allergies in children who grew up on farms. Overall, the assessment is that the risks of unpasteurized milk outweigh any benefits.
Meanwhile, Livsmedelsverket has revealed it closed a company earlier this month due to poor hygiene conditions.
Al Hana Mejeri AB has also been banned from selling food. All food manufactured or sold by the company must be removed from stores and disposed of. People who have any affected items at home were told not to consume them. Items are labeled as Al Hana Mejeri.
The company primarily manufactures dairy products such as yogurt and cheese but also offered items including olive oil. Most products were sold to stores in Skåne, but they may also have been passed on to other companies.
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