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Home Eurosurveillance Weekly Release  1998: Volume 2/ Issue 13 Article 1
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Eurosurveillance, Volume 2, Issue 13, 26 March 1998

Citation style for this article: Maillot E. Sale of raw milk in France. Euro Surveill. 1998;2(13):pii=1238. Available online:

Sale of raw milk in France

In France, the sale of raw milk destined for human consumption is authorised but strictly controlled by a ruling of the Ministry of Agriculture of 1985, which provides for different levels of restrictions. In this way, all those responsible for the production of raw milk destined for human consumption are obliged to:
  • register with nearby veterinary services for licensing;
  • declare the absence of clinical cases of Q fever and possess a health licence, which specifies among others the following conditions:
    • unblemished record of no brucellosis and tuberculosis (annual tuberculin testing)
    • strict hygienic conditions regarding local equipment (accommodation, local storage of milk), animal husbandry, good practice, cooling of milk, and cleaning/disinfection of material
    • - well maintained register of the health of individual consignments and identification of livestock
  • define precise methods used to package milk (materials, place, time limit);
  • label containers with a DLC (date limit for consumption): Jc (date of packaging) plus 3 days if individually packaged on the farm; and Jp (day of production) plus 48 hours in the case of distribution in bulk in containers;
  • inscribe an operating license number on the carton or the container (to facilitate tracing);
  • verify with the regulatory authorities the conformity of raw milk to cellular, microbiological, and chemical criteria. Somatic cells are measured to indicate the health of the udder. Microbiological criteria are listed in the table. Milk is also examined for residual bacteria, antibiotics, or antifungicides;
  • control conditions of transportation and preservation of milk (4°C).

Raw milk for human consumption is included in the category of "foods that have not undergone decontamination treatment or are susceptible to recontamination after treatment". A service note in 1993, in the process of revision, anticipates that Listeria monocytogenes will be absent at the time of production, and not exceed 100 organisms per gram at the time of consumption, in conformity with a recommendation of the Council Supériore d’Hygiène Publique de France.

Table: Microbiological quality criteria for raw milk destined for human consumption

Raw milk must be free from microorganisms and dangerous toxins to satisfy the following public health criteria:

Designation Aerobic microorganisms at 30ºC (per ml) Faecal coliforms (per ml) Salmonellas (in 1000 ml) Beta haemolytic streptococci* (in 0.1 ml) Stable boiling point Acidity (grams of lacticacid per 1000 ml)
Day of packaging** <90,000 <100 Absent Absent ~ ~
‘Use by’ date <300,000 <100 Absent Absent Stable 1.4 - 1.8

* only beta haemolytic streptococci of Lancefield groups A, B, C, G, and L.
** or on day of production (non-packaged or individually packed raw milk

Reported by Evelyne Maillot, Réseau National de Santé Publique, Saint Maurice, France

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