Dairy helps force Food Standards guidlines rethink
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