Dublin’s three branches of Govinda’s vegetarian restaurants are negotiating with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as well as the Food Standards Authority of Ireland to be allowed continued use of raw milk directly from a farm, after receiving prohibition orders on April 21st.
The orders were served at Govinda’s Aungier Street, Merrion Row and Middle Abbey Street branches for the sale of raw and untreated milk supplied without appropriate documentation on the premises.
“Our restaurants remained open and traded normally while the prohibition order was in place, although we had to use pasteurized and homogenized milk to make paneer, one of our most popular dishes,” says Govinda’s executive manager Praghosa Dasa. “The order was lifted on April 30th, and I am now awaiting a letter
outlining what documentation they will require to enable us to resume with the farm milk.”
Govinda’s had been receiving their raw milk from a farmer who also supplied Glanbia, Ireland’s biggest dairy, and who has supplied ISKCON Ireland’s temples for over 20 years and its restaurants for the past 13 years.
According to Praghosa, the restaurant received a prohibition order although the milk was perfectly safe because of pasteurization’s current status as—pardon the pun—somewhat of a ‘holy cow.’
“Sometime before it was discovered, there was a huge outbreak of tuberculosis in cows that reached epidemic proportions in Europe and North America during the 18th and 19th centuries,” he explains. “So when pasteurization came along in 1864 and killed the TB bug in milk, stopping it from being passed on to humans, it was hailed as a godsend.”
Today, however, TB is effectively no longer an issue and all cows are regularly checked. What’s more, the farmer that supplied Govinda’s with milk has never had a TB reactor, either in his lifetime, or even in that of his late father.
Additional proof that the raw milk Govinda’s uses is safe comes in the form of a routine HSE health check at least one a year, during which samples of the restaurants’ food is tested to make sure they meet bacterial requirements. “Neither our paneer nor any other dish has ever failed to pass the HSE test, and we have never once had a complaint about a customer feeling unwell,” says Praghosa.
With all the health issues currently surrounding meat and eggs, such as ecoli, salmonella, listeria, and mad cow disease, Praghosa feels that farm milk is the last thing authorities should be making a big deal about.
“Still,” he says, “I’d advise managers of other ISKCON restaurants to learn from our situation and make sure you can use farm milk according to the laws in your area—and if you can, make sure you have all the necessary documentation required before using it.”
Aug 06, 2022
Brahmatirtha das Director, Bhaktivedanta Institute for Higher Studies