An assessment of the microbiological quality and safety of raw drinking milk on retail sale in England

Caroline Willis*, Frieda Jorgensen, Heather Aird, Nicola Elviss, A. Fox, Claire Jenkins, D. Fenelon, Lorraine Sadler-Reeves, James McLauchlin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Aims: This study aimed to review the microbiological results for raw drinking milk (RDM) samples submitted to Public Health England laboratories between 2014 and 2016 in order to produce up-to-date data on the microbiological safety of RDM and inform future risk assessments on its sale. Methods and Results: A total of 902 samples of RDM were collected from retail sale in England for microbiological examination. Overall, 454 of 770 samples (59·0%) taken for routine monitoring were of a satisfactory quality, whilst eight (1·0%) were ‘unsatisfactory and potentially injurious to health’ due to the presence of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli, Campylobacter or elevated levels of Listeria monocytogenes or coagulase-positive staphylococci. In contrast, 16 of 114 (14·0%) of samples taken in follow-up to a previous unsatisfactory result and 5 of 18 (27·8%) of samples related to illness were potentially injurious. A total of 229 of 902 samples (25·4%) gave unsatisfactory results due to elevated aerobic colony counts and/or coliforms, whilst 139 of 902 samples (15·4%) were of borderline quality due to coagulase-positive staphylococci. Listeria monocytogenes was detected at levels of <100 CFU per ml in 66 of 902 samples (7·3%) and other Listeria species in 44 of 902 samples (4·9%). Conclusions: Pathogens and/or indicators of poor hygiene were present in almost half of samples examined. Cows’ milk samples gave a significantly greater proportion of unsatisfactory results compared to milk from other species (i.e. goat, sheep, buffalo, camel). Significance and Impact of the Study: These results demonstrate the importance of maintaining strict controls on the production and sale of this product.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)535-546
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Applied Microbiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Society for Applied Microbiology


  • Escherichia coli
  • Listeria
  • Salmonella
  • dairy
  • food safety
  • raw milk


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