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Fears arise that Britain may weaken its regulations on imported milk
March 2, 2018

There are fears that Britain could significantly weaken its regulations to allow US imports of inferior milk as part of a future post-Brexit free trade deal.

Regulations could be weakened that prevent milk from cows with infected udders reaching British consumers, according to an investigation led by Greenpeace.

US rules allow almost double the amount of somatic cells – white blood cells that fight bacterial infection – than is permitted in UK milk.

Milk with a high number of blood cells is of much lower quality and nutritional value. High cell counts can also indicate poor animal welfare on farms.

WillowsEdge17_Barn aisle presaleUS regulators oppose the EU’s stricter limit and also its requirement to test milk at farm level – a measure designed to single out farms with infected herds – preferring to test vats of milk further down the supply chain that come from a number of producers.

Greenpeace has revealed that the US dairy industry is already in discussions with the Trump administration about a trade deal.

It would like to see the UK relax its standards relating to somatic cells once it leaves the EU.

Milk with a high cell count goes rancid more quickly and is less nutritious – containing low levels of butterfat, milk protein and calcium, and relatively high levels of sodium and chloride.

It is also used as an indicator of bovine mastitis – a painful condition that causes a cow’s body to send white blood cells to the infected udder to combat the bacteria – and is therefore used to monitor animal welfare.

In advanced infections the somatic cells may build up with dead bacteria and tissue to form pus around the infected udders – however, cows must be taken out of production if these symptoms are spotted.

‘Uncompetitive position’

Peter Plate – a lecturer at the Royal Veterinary College – said: “I think, in general, animal welfare standards in the UK are higher than in almost any other country, including the US.

“So a free trade deal has the potential danger to either dilute welfare standards here or put UK farmers into an uncompetitive position – we must avoid a race to the bottom.”

It follows news of a senior business representative to President Donald Trump warning that the British public may also have to accept chlorinated chicken as part of any trade deal between the UK and the US.

Wilbur Ross, the US commerce secretary, said any trade deal between the two countries would need to scrap rules that were set by Brussels.

A free trade deal between the US and the UK has the potential to dilute EU-set high welfare standards, and has led the British poultry industry to call the possibility “very concerning”.

‘Very protectionist’

US President Donald Trump has previously said he wants US agriculture to have more access to British markets after the UK leaves the EU.

Mr Trump criticised the EU’s trading relationship with the US on food products.

He said American farmers “can’t deal” with the EU as they are “very, very protectionist.”

“Our farmers and others can’t even deal with them, you can’t sell in. It’s very unfair. And that’s what I’ve been talking about for a long time,” he told the Wall Street Journal.

“It’s so stacked against the United States,” the President said.

 

Source: FarmingUK



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