9 June 1995

Black milk charges

THREE dairy farmers, from Derbyshire and Staffordshire, are to be prosecuted by MAFF over their alleged involvement in black market milk.

Junior farm minister Michael Jack announced on Wednesday that the three faced charges relating to the delivery of milk to unregistered purchasers.

Further proceedings are expected to be launched against more farmers in the Midlands and Wales "within days" an Intervention Board official revealed.

The first two cases will be held in Matlock Magistrates Court on June 22. Hayden Whitfield, Waldley Manor Farm, Doveridge, Derbys, faces nine charges. Also appearing that day is fellow Derbyshire farmer, Alan Woodhouse, Old Hall Farm, Mars- ton Montgomery, Ash-bourne. He will answer seven charges.

The third case, against John Alcock, Lower Foker Farm, Leek Firth, Staffs, will be heard on June 29 at Leek Magistrates Court. Mr Alcock also faces seven charges.

Rumours of black market dealing began last year (News, Nov 25). The scam, from Derbyshire, was then said to have spread throughout the Midlands, Wales and southern Scotland.

There were fears that poor quality, unpasteurised milk could reach the public. Most dairy farmers were angered by the few who, by selling black milk, threatened the stability of organised milk marketing in the UK.

Since then the Intervention Board promised, almost weekly, swift action to end the practice. A free "fraud phoneline" was set up, with information then investigated by a specialist team of the Intervention Boards anti-fraud unit and MAFFs investigation branch.

&#8226 The Intervention Boards 46-strong anti-fraud squad costs about £750,000 a year to run.

Shelley Wright