Dairy helps force Food Stan­dards guid­lines re­think

The Galloway News - - NEWS - stu­art GillE­spiE

Ar­ti­san cheese­mak­ers have forced Foods Stan­dards Scotland to back down over new guidelines.

The Eth­i­cal Dairy at Rain­ton near Gate­house was one of five raw- milk cheese pro­duc­ers that took ac­tion amid fears that new rec­om­men­da­tions for food in­spec­tors could force them to close.

But they have now ended their le­gal bat­tle af­ter the guidelines were changed.

Eth­i­cal Dairy owner Wilma Finlay said: “In our opin­ion, they have said no so of­ten that it would not have changed had we not gone down this route.

“Thank­fully it did not have to go to a full ju­di­cial re­view which would have been ex­tremely ex­pen­sive, not just our­selves, but also the gov­ern­ment. The guidelines now are more in line with what is go­ing on in the rest of Europe.

“It is a re­lief that this part is over and that Food Stan­dards Scotland have re­sponded and changed the guidelines to make them more ac­ces­si­ble to un­pas­teurised cheese­mak­ers in Scotland. I think it is now time to move on.”

The five busi­nesses — in­clud­ing Gal­loway Farm­house Cheeses at Mil­lar­ies in Sor­bie — use un­pas­teurised milk to make their prod­uct.

A le­gal bat­tle in­volv­ing South La­nark­shire Coun­cil and Er­ring­ton Cheese over whether the firm’s prod­uct was un­safe was brought to a close last year with a sher­iff rul­ing in favour of the award-win­ning cheese maker.

But that led to FSS in­tro­duc­ing new guidelines in De­cem­ber, prompt­ing fears among the coun­try’s raw milk cheese mak­ers that their prod­ucts could be banned.

They be­lieved the guidelines breached EU laws and got to­gether to set-up a crowd­fund­ing cam­paign to ob­tain le­gal advice, rais­ing more than £15,000.

A pe­ti­tion to over­haul the pro­to­cols was then launched but, at the Court of Ses­sion in Ed­in­burgh last week, the group’s QC Ai­dan O’Neill said the ac­tion was be­ing dropped as the guidelines had been changed.

He said: “The pur­pose of the pe­ti­tion has been achieved. The mat­ter should be dis­missed.”

A spokesman for FSS said: “The guid­ance around raw milk cheese­mak­ing, which was the sub­ject of this le­gal chal­lenge, has been pro­duced for local au­thor­i­ties who carry out food safety in­spec­tions to en­sure food be­ing pro­duced is safe.

“At no stage has the guid­ance been in breach of EU law and it has al­ways been Food Stan­dards Scotland’s con­tention that the le­gal chal­lenge was en­tirely un­nec­es­sary.

“The changes that have been made are as a re­sult of con­struc­tive dis­cus­sions be­tween Food Stan­dards Scotland, the Scot­tish Food En­force­ment Li­ai­son Com­mit­tee and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the raw milk cheese sec­tor, in­clud­ing Spe­cial­ist Cheese­mak­ers As­so­ci­a­tion and Fine Cheese­mak­ers of Scotland. The revisions pro­vide ad­di­tional clar­ity in re­la­tion to sam­pling and test­ing and the ac­tions that would be taken when tests show a po­ten­tial food-safety risk.

“This guid­ance was al­ways meant to be re­viewed be­fore it was fi­nalised and will con­tinue to be re­viewed based on the ex­pe­ri­ence of, and feed­back from, local au­thor­i­ties and food busi­nesses.”

Say cheese David and Wilma Finlay are happy the guidelines have changed

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