Brucellosis crisis: ‘Not all raw milk is dangerous’

The impression that might have been created amongst some consumers that all raw, unpasteurised milk is infected with brucellosis was not accurate.

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This was according to Ivor Treed, a Delmas dairy farmer, who was responding to information shared during and insert aired recently on the popular investigative journalism programme Carte Blanche about the brucellosis crisis in South Africa’s dairy herds.

It was stated on the programme that brucellosis was out of control in local dairy herds and that it could be transferred to humans via unpasteurised or raw milk. It also stated that the spread is due to a lack of vaccines and uncontrolled movement of cattle.

“They painted the whole industry with a black brush,” Treed told Farmer’s Weekly.

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He admitted brucellosis was a problem, especially as there were irresponsible producers who did not test their herds regularly, but he said he has been running a closed herd since 1998 and sells raw milk and cheese that have been tested and approved.

“There are producers that do not adhere to requirements and even chase the health department away when they want to take samples. I place the responsibility at the feet of the Milk Producers’ Organisation and the Department of Health,” said Treed.

According to Treed milk produced on his farm gets tested by Deltamune Test Laboratories (approved by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries) every seven weeks and twice a week by a cheese factory he supplies.

Unscrupulous producers who do not adhere to regular testing, but sell milk “in Coca Cola bottles to the informal market” were also to blame for the problem, he said.

“The middle man makes all the money in the milk industry. With the price farmers are paid they often feel they cannot afford to test or keep milk records that could indicate brucellosis,” said Treed.