VEGA News Item

U-Turn Forced on Food Standards Agency over Antibiotic Residues and in Milk - 24/10/2006
Brussels is planning an urgent health safety investigation into Britain’s entire milk and cheese production. It will entail random checks at farms and dairies.
1. A week or so ago the European Commission began legal action accusing the British Government of allowing unfit and unsafe food to enter the food chain. Brussels is planning an urgent health safety investigation into Britain’s entire milk and cheese production. It will entail random checks at farms and dairies. As we reported earlier (click here), the Food Standards Agency indicated a will to challenge the Commission, but in a dramatic intervention, Whitehall has overruled the FSA, which has had to despatch Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) and Trading Standards Officers with new instructions about the testing of milk. Any milk found with traces of antibiotics must be rejected and dumped in a landfill site or retested to check whether the amount of chemical residue is safe for human consumption. (Dumping in landfill sites is likely to be strictly regulated for environmental reasons).

2. In future, any milk washed down from processing equipment must be free of detergent if it is sent for use in food production to other plants. Scientific experts are to discuss the whole testing program in Europe, in the hope “that a rapid test can be developed to gauge the levels of antibiotics in products” (The Times, 21 October 2006). Our earlier report discussed many details of the problem.

3. John Wright, a director of Bowland Dairy Products, which is bringing a legal action against the Commission over the closure, states: “It is sad that the government has not backed the FSA. This was a political decision not backed by the science or the law”. Brussels had ordered closure of Bowland Dairy Products after inspectors found that the processor was collecting out-of-date milk from retailers and manufacturers for use in cheese. It was found that mouldy and contaminated cheese was being used for vacuum-pack products sent to the continent.

4. As our earlier report indicated, terms such as antibiotic may need redefining. Levels of iodopher disinfectants used to wash cows’ mucky udders and teats prior to milking have at times risen so high that fears have heightened of thyrotoxicosis in human consumers unwittingly receiving excessive amounts of dietary iodine. Triclosan is another widely-used antiseptic / disinfectant to which some bacterial resistance has been remarked on; and, after all, it is an organo-chloro-compound. Further, the standard tests for antibiotic residues are of low specificity and of low sensitivity to some compounds. And some highly esteemed cheeses such as Roquefort are deliberately infected by inoculation with cheese moulds.

5. The Food Standards Agency defended the hygiene practices being scrutinized at the Bowland Dairy, “taking the line that it was perfectly safe to use milk with antibiotics for food production as long as the chemical traces were within safety limits”. The Times reports “anger in Europe” that “suspect milk containing antibiotic residues or tainted with dye and detergent was being used to make curd cheese at Bowland Dairy Products.” Consumers in Britain “were alarmed to learn that suspect milk was being cleaned up and used for the production of curd cheese, a main ingredient in hard and soft processed cheese.” Certainly the row will do no good for British cheesemakers setting out to glorify their products in comparison with the greats of the Continent. However, even those giants may not be beyond reproach.

6. These facts and our earlier testimony for plant-milk dairy-frees illustrate the advantages of making milks by processing soya beans in gleaming stainless steel vats rather than by stuffing imported concentrates into mucky, miserable, mastitic cows limping into parlors to be mechanically sucked for human milksops.

7. So “the food standards chiefs have ordered the reform of hygiene practices in the British dairy industry and banned the use of milk contaminated with antibiotics in food or drink.” It is amazing that it was necessary to perform, in the words of the Times, this U-Turn, to abandon a shameful connivance long overdue for a good bout of Euro exposure and reform.

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