Food Law News - UK - 1999

20 January 1999: MILK - Tougher Official Checks on Raw Cows' Drinking Milk


MAFF News Release (23/99), 20 January 1999

Tougher Official Checks on Raw Cows' Drinking Milk

Tougher measures to check the hygiene standards of raw cows' drinking milk were announced today. Mr Brown said:
"We have decided not to stop the sale of raw cows' drinking milk in England and Wales. However, we intend to introduce tighter checks to benefit consumers who choose to drink raw cows' drinking milk. The new measures will include: These measures will begin immediately.

"Raw milk producers will continue to pay for official checks, and we will be putting in hand arrangements to extend the scope of enforcement at production holdings. In addition, we intend that on-farm caterers will no longer be exempted from the charges for microbiological sample testing, and also that the full costs of inspection and sample testing will be recovered. This will necessitate changes to the relevant regulations, and in due course we will issue draft regulations for public consultation. There is already a requirement to label raw cows' drinking milk with a public health warning. We will be putting into place arrangements to ensure this is given greater prominence.

"In addition, these arrangements will also require that labels on retail packaging, and notices displayed at on-farm catering premises, must include the Chief Medical Officer's advice. This is that children, pregnant women, elderly people and those who are currently unwell or have a chronic illness should not consume raw cows' milk.

"We would like to take this opportunity to emphasise in the strongest possible terms that the industry is responsible, and remains responsible, for the production of safe food. Producers of raw cows' drinking milk must ensure that it is produced to the best hygienic standards."

The public consultation on a proposal to ban sales of raw cows' drinking milk in England was issued on 3 November 1997 (MAFF News Release No 332/97). The public consultation on a proposal to ban sales of raw cows' drinking milk in Wales was issued on 4 November 1997 (WOAD News Release No W-97 455-AG.

The public consultation period in England was extended to 24 February 1998 (MAFF News Release 42/98 of 2 February) following a request from small businesses.

The public consultation in Wales ended on 24 February 1998.

Responses to the public consultation in England have been placed in the MAFF library and may be viewed on appointment or copies obtained on request (Enquiries: Tel: 0645 335577). Responses to the public consultation in Wales have been placed in the Welsh Office library and may be viewed on appointment or copies obtained on request (Enquiries: Tel: 01222 825449).

The Chief Medical Officer issued advice on the consumption of raw milk in Department of Health Press Release No 95/278 of 6 June 1995. The wording of this advice has been informally adjusted to the version that appears in this Press Release.

The sale of raw cows' drinking milk has been banned in Scotland since 1983. At present, in England and Wales, sales are restricted by the Dairy Products (Hygiene) Regulations 1995 to those made directly to consumers on the farm, at the farm gate or via a milk round.

The Dairy Products (Hygiene) Regulations 1995 (SI No 1995/1086) may be obtained from Stationery Office Publications Centre and other usual distribution outlets. The Dairy Products (Hygiene) (Amendment) Regulations 1996 (SI No 1996/1699) have no effect on controls on the sale of raw cows' drinking milk.

Official inspection of registered raw cows' drinking milk production holdings currently takes place on average once every 18 months (or more frequently if a follow-up inspection is required as a result of a breach of standards). Inspections, including follow-ups, are charged at the full economic cost of 94 per time. All producers, including on-farm caterers, are charged.

Raw cows' drinking milk is currently officially microbiologically sample tested twice a year at production holdings (more frequently if standards are breached). Producers are charged about half the full economic cost of sample testing - 63 on each occasion - but on-farm caterers are not charged.

The general requirement that raw cows' drinking milk must be free of pathogenic micro-organisms and their toxins at harmful levels (Schedule 4 of The Dairy Products (Hygiene) Regulations 1995) is presently enforced by food authorities. It is planned that this requirement will additionally be enforced by the Dairy Hygiene Inspectorate at production holdings, and that industry would be expected to pay for this.

Changes to dairy hygiene charges will necessitate amendment of The Dairy Products (Hygiene) (Charges) Regulations 1995 (SI No 1995/1122) which are available from Stationery Office.

The Food Labelling Regulations 1996 (SI No 1996/1499) are also available from Stationery Office. These Regulations will also need to be amended and draft regulations for public consultation will be issued in due course.

In Northern Ireland there are currently no sales of raw cows' drinking milk, nevertheless it is planned to introduce amendments to the Northern Ireland legislation in line with those planned in England and Wales.


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