The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has issued a reminder to local authorities and dairy businesses on the rules governing the sale of raw milk after some UK farmers were found to have been swapping ear tags that mark out cows infected with tuberculosis (TB).
Evidence has emerged that some farmers in the South West of England and the Midlands have been illegally swapping ear tags to keep TB-positive animals in their herds and send less productive animals to slaughter.
The UK government reacted to the news by requiring DNA samples to be taken from cattle that test positive for TB. These samples will be stored and cross-checked at random, or where fraud is suspected, with the DNA of animals sent to slaughter.
Agriculture minister Jim Paice said: “We are introducing this extra safeguard to minimise spread of this devastating disease to other herds and wildlife.”
And commenting directly on the recent fraud cases, Price said: “I am absolutely appalled any farmer would deliberately break the law in this way. Anyone doing this sort of thing will be caught and have the book thrown at them.”
The government added that only a few farmers have been found to be breaking the law and that the health risk to consumers is very low.
Low dairy risk
FSA added that pasteurisation destroys the bacteria that cause TB so the risk from consuming pasteurised milk or dairy products is very low. As for unpasteurised dairy products, the regulator said there is no evidence that TB infected cattle is being used to produce these products so the risk is ‘low’.
Nevertheless, FSA sought to remind farmers and dairy businesses of the rules surrounding unpasteurised milk and dairy products. Most importantly, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland unpasteurised must be sold direct from the farmer and be labelled to warn consumers about potential dangers. In Scotland, it is illegal to sell unpasteurised milk for drinking. For more details on the rules governing the sale of unpasteurised dairy products in the UK, please click here.