§ The Countess of Mar
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether they will issue clear and consistent instructions to cheese makers, veterinarians and environmental health officers in the whole of the United Kingdom as to the action which should be taken when it is found that cattle producing milk for cheese production are found to be (a) tuberculin test reactors or (b) show inconclusive results at testing. [HL654]
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Hayman)
The Dairy Products (Hygiene) Regulations 1995 (Schedule 3) and the equivalent regulations in Northern Ireland and Scotland require that raw cow's milk shall come from animals belonging to a herd which is officially tuberculosis free (OTF).
Where dairy herds are tested by veterinarians and do not satisfy this condition, following the disclosure of tuberculin test reactors, then milk may only be sold for human consumption after it has been heat treated (Regulation 9(10) of the Dairy Products (Hygiene) Regulations). Similar legislation and controls apply in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
When veterinarians carry out TB testing of dairy herds they will advise dairy farmers (including those making cheese) of reactors found in the herd and requirements to safeguard animal health. Where the OTF status of a dairy herd is suspended or withdrawn, whether by discovery of reactors or for any other reason, in the United Kingdom, the Veterinary Service will notify the relevant food authorities who have enforcement responsibility for the Dairy Products (Hygiene) Regulations. The food authorities will also contact producers of raw milk products such as cheesemakers to give advice where they may have purchased raw cow's milk from herds where the OTF status has been suspended or withdrawn.
Currently, when inconclusive reactors only are disclosed, the official tuberculosis-free status of the herd is retained; the animals which reacted inconclusively are kept in isolation and retested. Amendments to European Union animal health legislation, due to be implemented by 1 July 1999, require herds with inconclusive reactors to have their OTF status suspended if there has been a confirmed TB incident within the past three years.
The Department of Health are currently preparing guidance for food authorities in conjunction with other relevant government departments.