VEGA News Item

VEGA Comments on DEFRA Dairy Consultation - 20/04/2007
DEFRA consultation on proposed package of measures relating to the dairy sector.

Re: Proposed package of measures relating to the dairy sector. Consultation on a Commission proposal for a package of measures relating to the dairy sector

1. The package of measures perpetuates minor adjustments in a system of food production and its corollaries now not fit for purpose in the light of:

(a) Statements by Ben Bradshaw MP, a DEFRA Minister, urging a reduction in the consumption of meat and (animal derived) milks, on various grounds of health and environment, and with further connotations in animal welfare. The history and sequels of the Finnish South Karelia project emphasize these conclusions and their relevance. In the UK, beef, cheese, and butter are co-products or by-products that should not be returned to the food supply or in feedstuffs – and certainly not by additions of VAT (Virtue Adding Tricks) of questionable value. Dumping lard and butter should be abandoned without causing environmental problems: they could be used as fuels in a manner consistent with the present government’s policies on gaseous agricultural emissions.

(b) Nutritional and epidemiological studies emphasize the foregoing observations, especially the FSA’s concerns over cheese and other concentrated sources of animal fat and protein accompanied by high salt contents.

(c) The Finnish experience has confirmed the need for action on these matters and has led the way with salutary agronomic reforms and developments in alternatives. The shelves and chillers of most supermarkets and grocers bear witness to progress in a market meeting increasing demand from the population of meat-reducers and dairy-frees. Accordingly, the word milk as a trade or nutritional needs definition: cow’s milk, soya milk, human milk etc. Labelling should be appropriate. This would return British practice to the situation when MAFF ceded control to the EU; some uses, eg peanut butter, have survived this change.

2. Such developments are already being implemented by some education authorities in pursuing policies of “healthy” foods in the contents of school meals and lunch boxes and availability of fresh fruit and veg and of fortification with nutrients in a manner unacceptable in animal-derived milks (eg in vitamin D). Products such as Benecol resulted from Finnish experience in this context. The British dairy/beef/veal industry cannot match the promise shown by such innovators; and it is lumbered with risks of costly zoonotic disease and environmental damage – BSE originated and has been maintained in dairy herds and their output.

3. We therefore recommend fundamental changes in the package of proposals. Now is the time to act. Initiatives to these ends surpass the need for more tinkering in a forlorn industry suckling a cowed nation of milksops.  

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