A POPULAR raw milk vending machine has been closed down by its farmer owners who said business never recovered from a food poisoning scare – despite being given the all clear.
New Forest Raw Milk at Sarah’s Dairy in Milford quickly attracted fans from all over the county who raved about the “fantastic” taste of the unpasteurised milk after the self-service equipment was installed in May.
But this week the owners of Hordle Farm, on Cliff Road, where the dairy was based, announced they were no longer selling raw milk.
In a Facebook post, owner Sarah Cobb said that the farm had “never recovered” from the food poisoning probe which took seven weeks to investigate by the Food Standards Agency and cost the dairy thousands in lost sales.
The news was greeted with sadness by many customers. Marion Howard, who lives in Milford, told the A&T: “I am absolutely cut up about it. I feel so sorry for the family. This milk was just fantastic.
“It tasted lovely and I used to buy it all the time, as did a lot of my friends. I feel the environmental health department took too long to investigate the dairy over the food poisoning which quite obviously ruined the business.
“It’s a shame we can’t get together as a community and try to save what has been a wonderful asset for the village.”
The dairy was temporarily banned from selling raw milk after it was identified as a possible source of Campylobacter.
A family of three holidaying in the New Forest all came down with symptoms of poisoning by the bacteria in June this year. One of the places they had visited was Hordle Farm from where they had brought and drunk raw milk.
As a result the Food Standards Agency ordered the vending machine be shut down while tests were carried out.
However, just before the incident the National Milk Record had carried out a test on the milk which came back clear.
Owner Sarah told the A&T at the time that the dairy was “meticulous” about testing the milk themselves. She said: “It is tested every other day when a tanker arrives to collect it for our contract with a major supermarket. That test has always been clear.”
Since installing the vending machine the farm had sold more than 2,500 litres of raw milk from it, and there had never been any related health problems reported – before the family told of their food poisoning.
When Campylobacter is the culprit in food poisoning cases the local FSA office must be informed and an investigation to trace the source started.
But it took nearly two months for that to take place. Fed-up customers started a petition to have the ban on the milk lifted and more than 1,000 posted messages of support on New Forest Raw Milk’s Facebook page.
Sarah and her husband Matthew were so frustrated with the length of time it was taking they paid £150 for an independent test which came back negative for the bacteria.
They were eventually given the all clear in July by the FSA and started selling the raw milk again. At the time Sarah said she was “absolutely delighted” and reported that there was a queue of customers waiting on the first day the vending machine went back in operation.
But it seems that sales have not returned to the level before the food poisoning scare, and the family have taken what they described as the “difficult” decision to close the vending machine.
The Cobb family said they did not want to make any further comment when contacted by the A&T.