UK dairy ban sparks EU food safety row

By Chris Mercer

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food safety European union European commission

Rows and confusion have soured relations between food safety bodies
from the UK and European Commission, after EU member states agreed
to ban products from a UK dairy.

EU member states have banned curd cheese produced by Bowland Dairies in northern England, following serious food safety and hygiene problems, the Commission has announced.

Opposition to the move came immediately from the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA), making public a simmering row with the Commission over food safety testing.

Lapses found by Commission food inspectors at Bowland in June included off milk and milk used to make curd cheese contaminated with antibiotics residues, detergents and dyes. They also found cheese containing floor waste and mould.

Follow-up inspections two weeks ago showed little improvement, the Commission said, pointing the finger at UK authorities for failing to act.

The accusations concerning the contaminated milk have rattled the FSA. "They still haven't shared that report with us, we don't know what the full claims are. From our own investigation, we haven't found anything,"​ said an agency spokesperson to​.

"We can't just close something down because the Commission tells us to. Until we have the evidence, legally we can't act. We have been asking for the evidence."

Lack of access to the most recent inspection evidence left the FSA unable to take part in this week's vote to ban Bowland's curd cheese across the EU.

The FSA said it had taken several corrective measures against Bowland since the original Commission inspection in June, but still disagreed with the Commission's interpretation of test results for antibiotics in Bowland's milk.

"There are genuine differences of views on the science behind the testing for antibiotics in milk and these have not yet been resolved."

Bowland was left fuming by the Commission's decision Friday.

The Lancashire-based firm recently won a case against the Commission in the European Court of First Instance over the issue of antibiotics residues in its milk. The court ordered the Commission on 12 September to withdraw a food alert warning that Bowland produce was unsafe.

Milk containing antibiotics residues within the specified EU limit can be used to produce cheese.

"We have been the unfortunate victim of an ongoing dispute between the European Commission, UK authorities, and the Food Standards Agency, on the interpretation of EU food safety regulations,"​ said Bowland director John Wright. The group intends to again challenge the Commission in the courts.

Industry association Dairy UK said it was deeply concerned by the Commission's move. "This is an attack on the competence of the FSA, and Dairy UK fully supports the FSA."

The dispute between the UK authorities and Commission inspection teams was sparked by new EU hygiene laws, which came into force at the start of this year.

Inspectors from the Commission's Food and Veterinary Office plan to tour the entire UK dairy sector in November. "If evidence is found of similar practices elsewhere in the UK, the Commission will take further action,"​ the Commission said.

The ban on Bowland's curd cheese will remain "until the UK FSA has shown that it has taken measures to ensure that there is no risk to human health, and has changed its procedures with regard to what it demands for antibiotic testing in milk"​.

Related topics Regulation & Safety

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