22 March 1996

MDCcould move in to set national standards

THE Milk Development Council is discussing its possible involvement in developing a national set of milk quality assurance standards.

Peter Merson, MDC chief executive, said that he had already had discussions with the NFU and most of the large milk buyers. "I do think that there should be a national set of standards, but whether we have any involvement is still being discussed," he said.

Extra requirements

But even with one national code of practice, Mr Merson believed that individual dairy companies would still want to tack on their own extra requirements. "Thats understandable because each company will be looking to gain the maximum competitive advantage," he said.

Mr Merson saw two potential pitfalls with any single scheme. "If the standards are too low then the whole thing falls into disrepute because consumers wont have any confidence. Equally if the standards are too high then the cost of implementation will drive some producers out of business."

But while the MDC might be involved in devising a national code, Mr Merson said that it would not take any part in policing the scheme. Independent audits of producer compliance with a code of practice was essential but how that could be managed was still being discussed.

The MDC will continue its industry discussions at an NFU meeting in the coming month. An NFU official said that milk buyers would be invited to attend and the aim was to find out if a single scheme was feasible.