HL Deb 01 February 1999 vol 596 cc176-7WA
Viscount Simon

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What conclusions they have reached following their review of the law relating to the drinking of raw cow milk in England and Wales. [HL639]

Lord Donoughue

My right honourable friends the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Secretary of State for Wales have decided not to stop the sale of raw cow's drinking milk in England and Wales. However, they intend to introduce tighter checks to benefit consumers who choose to drink raw cows' milk.

The new measures will include increasing the frequency of official microbiological sample testing of raw cow's drinking milk at production premises to four times a year and increasing the frequency of official inspections of registered raw cow's milk production holdings to once a year. 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 cow's drinking milk with a public health warning. We will be putting into place arrangements to ensure that 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, which is that children, pregnant women, elderly people and those who are currently unwell or have chronic illness should not consume raw cow's milk.

We emphasise in the strongest possible terms that the industry is responsible, and remains responsible, for the production of safe food. Producers of raw cow's drinking milk must ensure that it is produced to the best hygienic standards.