§ 2.57 p.m.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government how long it will take to decide whether long-life milk as consumed in continental Europe is harmful for British consumers and whether, provided the investigations show that there is no threat to health, the Government will make sure that consumers who wish to buy this milk are able to do so.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Earl Ferrers)
My Lords, the Government are concerned that the health and hygiene status of imports of UHT milk may be below the levels on which we insist for the production and processing of our own milk. Consultations with the commission and others concerned are at present taking place in order to enable the United Kingdom to comply with the recent judgment of the European Court, whilst preserving our own public health standards.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, while thanking the noble Earl for that reply, may I ask him to answer the last part of my Question, which is that when the health standards are satisfactorily established the Government will make it possible for the public to buy this milk?
My Lords, I thought I had answered the last part of the noble Baroness' Question in my reply, part of which I will repeat:Consultations with the commission and others concerned are at present taking place in order to enable the United Kingdom to comply with the recent judgment of the European Court, whilst preserving our own public health standards.When these consultations have been completed, of course, we shall be able to take the necessary action.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that this dreadful UHT stuff ruins any cup of tea into which it is put, and will he do his best to keep it out?
My Lords, of course, that is a matter of personal preference. If the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, wishes to buy UHT milk in England he can do so, but he is very wise not to do so.
§ Lord John-Mackie
My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that the final article may be perfectly hygienic but that the production of it could be very bad indeed? Although the final article is good, it is not very nice to 933 think that straw and muck and stuff might have been in it originally. It is rather like the chefs who used to spit in the fat—perfectly hygienic, but not very nice.
My Lords, that is a simile which stretches the imagination beyond desirability, and I hope that that does not happen with UHT milk.
§ Lord Monk Bretton
My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether the standards to which UHT milk is subjected in France are the same as they are in England, and whether he has comparable figures for other EEC countries?
My Lords, I can tell my noble friend that in the United Kingdom the data collected recently by the Milk Marketing Boards indicate that over 97 per cent. of milk which is produced in the United Kingdom has a total bacterial count of less than 100,000 per millilitre. I understand that in France only 75 per cent. of milk reaches this standard. Certainly, that was the case in 1981.