Selling the raw milk for human consumption is illegal in Australia but many health stores offer the product for cosmetic use, suggesting people can bathe in the substance.
UNSW’s Associate Professor of Food and Microbiology, Julian Cox, said marketing raw milk as a cosmetic product was nothing but retailers attempting to dodge the ban and could lead to infection.
Certain bacteria can get into the raw milk during the milking process if the cow has mastitis, or “milk fever,” he explained.
This can trigger skin infections in humans if they use it on the skin and it comes into contact with wounds or burns.
“In mastitis, bacteria can be present at very high levels in raw milk,” Associate Professor Cox said.
“Pseudomonas aeruginosa is well known to cause problems with wounds and burns, high levels could be a problem even with topical or cosmetic use — without consumption.”
Pasteurisation removes such a threat.
“Pasteurisation is something we have had in place for a century.” he said.
“It keeps milk at a safe and important part of the food supply.”
Sydney Children’s Hospital department head of paediatric gastroenterology, Dr Avi Lemberg, said people needed to be reminded that infectious diseases are still a risk despite medical advancements.
“People have come to believe that infectious diseases are no longer a risk by things like pasteurization and also immunization, but in fact they are saving millions of lives every year around the world,” Dr Lemberg said.
“The really young and the elderly are those who will be most affected.”
Dr Lemberg also criticised the cosmetic marketing for raw milk.
Bondi man and armchair epidemiologist Bill Tucker is an avid raw milk supporter.
The 55-year-old believes the drink has health benefits and the controversy and health fears surrounding it are unnecessary.
“I believe it’s got good bacteria. They have it everywhere else in the world like Europe. I can’t see a problem with it,” he said outside The Health Emporium in Bondi.
“There are a few germs. I think that’s why people get allergies, a few more germs would toughen people up.”
Fellow shopper Deborah Whitebread also supports the sale and production of raw milk.
She said milk was best straight from the cow and people should have the freedom to choose whether or not they drink it.
A 30-year-old woman, who also did not want to be named, said she was aware they sold raw milk for bathing yet she was suspicious of how customers actually use the product.
“It is mainly health food stores that it is sold in and I guess it is giving people the opportunity if they want to use it for cosmetic purposes that it is there,” she said.
“But I think from people who I know who use it they don’t use it for cosmetic purposes they use it to consume at home.
“It’s a thing that I would not give to children or myself.”