The Regulations enforce a European Community Regulation and the main features are:
The draft regulations will provide for the enforcement of Council Regulation (EC) 2597/97 laying down additional rules on the common market organisation in milk and milk products for drinking milk. The compositional standards, which are largely unchanged from those applying under the previous EC legislation (Regulation (EEC) 1411/71), with the exception of the definition of skimmed milk, came into force on 1 January 1998. The new quality standards (freezing point, minimum protein content and minimum non fat dry matter), which are currently set out in Milk Hygiene legislation come into effect on from January 1999.
A consultation letter has been sent to over 100 interested parties in Great Britain inviting comments on the draft regulations which would provide for the enforcement of EC legislation, setting marketing, compositional and quality standards for drinking milk. A similar consultation exercise will be carried out in Northern Ireland.
The EC compositional requirements for skimmed, semi-skimmed and whole milk came into effect on 1 January 1998. The new EC quality criteria will come into effect from January 1999.
The Drinking Milk Regulations 1976 provided for the enforcement of Regulation 1411/71 in England and Wales. In Scotland this was done by means of the Drinking Milk (Scotland) Regulations 1976. Northern Ireland also had their own legislation.
Regulation (EEC) 1411/71 has now been consolidated and replaced by Regulation (EEC) 2597/97. New domestic legislation is required to enforce it. The new Regulations will cover Great Britain. Parallel legislation will be introduced in Northern Ireland.
The Regulations will revoke the following Regulations in their entirety:
The Regulations will also revoke certain parts of other existing Regulations as follows:
Comments in response to the consultation should reach Agriculture Departments by 31 August 1998.
The consultation letter contains more detailed information as follows:
MAFF Letter, 23 July 1998
Regulation 2597/97 defines drinking milk and sets out the permissible fat content ranges for the following types of milk:
Under the Regulation 2597/97, it is still permissible to adjust the fat content of whole milk up and down provided the 3.5% fat content minimum is respected. It is not permitted to market drinking milk with a fat content of less than 3.5% as ‘whole milk’.
A new provision has been introduced, which will allow the addition milk protein, vitamins and minerals to milk, provided that, in the case of protein-enriched milk, the protein content is at least 3.8%. It is also permissible to reduce the lactose content of drinking milk by means of an enzymatic process, using lactase. Lactose reduction my means of microfiltration is not permitted. Milk manufacturers will have to ensure that milk which has been manipulated in one of these ways is appropriately labelled. Member States have the option to ban protein enrichment and/or lactose reduction of drinking milk. The Government is not proposing to introduce such a ban.
Regulation 2597/97 also introduces new compositional criteria for drinking milk, which are currently set out in the EU Milk Hygiene Directive (92/46/EEC). These quality criteria, which will come into effect from January 1999 are as follows:
Regulation 2597/97 also establishes a new freezing point requirement for drinking milk. At present the freezing point stipulated in the Milk Hygiene Directive cannot be higher than -0.52°C. The new freezing point requirement for drinking milk is stipulated in more general terms, i.e. it must be close to the average freezing point for raw milk recorded in the area where the milk originated.
The new detailed criteria and the freezing point provisions will be subject to detailed implementing Commission legislation which has yet to be discussed in Brussels. They apply from January 1999.