Present laws allow the sale of raw milk from herds under Tb restriction if the product is to be pasteurised.
Different and very serious problems face producers of 'green top' milk and unpasteurised cheeeses. If herds producing for those markets have a Reactor to the intradermal skin test, then their sales are banned. For the farmhouse cheese makers, even stocks of cheese held would be subject to intense scrutiny by HSE and FSA and would possibly have to jump through judicial hoops before any sale was allowed - by which time the cheese would be walking off the shelf.
Raw milk and milk products made from it, has to be produced from herds that are "officially TB free".
Further questions on the subject of milk sales by Owen Paterson MP, teased out a more disturbing answer for producers of any raw milk, which we quote in full:
"The new European Union consolidated Food Hygiene Regulation, which is expected to come into force in January 2006, will not permit the sale of milk from reactor animals for human consumption - including milk that has been heat treated."
The EU is responsible for the majority of agricultural legislation. Defra's role is to implement it. But in comparison with our trading neighbours in mainland Europe, our compliance hoops tend to be smaller and more difficult to jump through.
So how will Defra interpret this little gem and define a 'Reactor Animal' as described by the EU statute?
Will it be a +5 ml Reactor, or an animal which has given an 'Inconclusive' reaction to the skin test as well?.
If the herd is measured under severe interpretation, will the statute include the + 3 ml 'Reactors'?
Or, in the absence of any action whatsoever on the maintenance reservoir in wildlife which is now giving an incessant and pernicious drip feed of infection to herds under restriction, will Defra's definition of this new EU satute, extend to 'expected Reactors' ? In other words will they ban all milk sales from herds which fail the skin test in the expectation of 'more to come'?
Knowing from past experience the zealousness with which Defra gold plates and tinsel wraps every European word, the dairy industry has a right to be worried.
And as the numbers of cows involved in herd breakdowns is now into very large numbers rather than an odd 1 or 2, what the hell do we do with their milk whose pollution potential exceeds that of silage effluent?
This statute comes into force in just over a year.
We'd better ask Mr. Bradshaw.