Ministers delay ban on raw milk

Click to follow
Moves to ban the sale of raw milk have been delayed, the Government has announced. Heavy representation by industry and consumers has forced the Ministry of Agriculture to put off its decision. Glenda Cooper, Consumer Affairs Correspondent reports.

The Government's proposal to ban the sale of raw cows' milk has been postponed after ministers decided to extend the consultation period.

The decision was taken after the ministry received requests from many small businesses to extend it, blaming the Christmas break for making it difficult for farmers to comment. The ministry said it was extending the consultation period on the proposed ban by three weeks so the new deadline for comments will be 24 February.

"It is important that there is adequate opportunity for all raw milk producers and consumers to have the chance to make their views known," said Jeff Rooker, the food safety minister. "Protecting consumers remains our first priority but in these exceptional circumstances we have extended the consultation period."

The move comes amid criticism of the Government's decision to ban sales of beef on the bone, imposed after a consultation period of only seven days.

The milk ban in England was proposed last November following advice to ministers from independent scientists that the untreated milk could contain potentially harmful bacteria. Letters were sent out to 180 representative organisations and interested parties. Similar consultation exercises are taking place in Wales and Northern Ireland. The sale of raw cows' drinking milk has been banned in Scotland since 1983.

It sparked opposition from farmers who claim labels already ensure consumers are warned about the risks of drinking the milk. Sir Julian Rose, chairman of the Association of Unpasteurised Milk Producers and Consumers, said: "Some half a million consumers enjoy the taste of real milk fresh and unprocessed. Some suffer from allergies aggravated by the pasteurised equivalent and any ban will mean they will have to stop drinking milk altogether."