24 May 1996

NMP hits at MMs assurance claim

MILK Marques claim that its quality assurance scheme, released to producers last week, is the first of its kind has been denounced by the Northern Milk Partnership.

Milk Marque sent copies of its code, The Welfare of the Dairy Cow, to members with the expectation that they would all agree to meet the standards.

The code of practice, developed with supermarket giant Sainsbury, covers a wide range of animal health and welfare issues, including nutrition, housing, handling and transportation.

According to Sainsbury director of scientific services, Geoff Spriegel, consumers are looking for a responsible approach to animal welfare throughout the food chain. "Until now assurance has not been available for milk and dairy products and so we welcome this development as an important step," said Dr Spriegel.

Andrew Dare, MM chief executive, said that because there was no definitive code of practice for the dairy cow until now, no one was able to give that assurance.

But Richard Smith, chairman of the Northern Milk Partnership, hit out at what he described as "typical Milk Marque poppycock". The NMP had launched its own Star Initiative quality assurance scheme last year, and with Northern Foods it offered full traceability and quality guarantees right through the chain from cow to consumer.

"We have the full backing of all the supermarkets because we are supplying them with milk, which is something Milk Marque does not do – all they do is supply the companies that deal with the supermarkets," he said.

And he added that through the NMP/Northern Food arrangement customers were offered full traceability, which was something Milk Marque could never offer.

Mr Smith said that at a recent meeting between major milk buyers and the NFU, Milk Marque had opposed the development of a single, national code of practice.

"That is certainly something the NMP would support because it would be sensible to have one scheme. But Milk Marque seems to think that although it is a good idea in practice it is too late because everyone already has their own schemes," said Mr Smith.

Not opposed to code

But Milk Marque insisted that was untrue. An official said: "Milk Marque is not opposed to any national code of practice – if there was one we would support it fully but at the moment there is no such scheme, so we have to go ahead with our own."

An NFU official said that after last weeks industry meeting all the buyers had given the green light to the NFU to go away and draft a national code. "This will then be discussed by a small working party which Andrew Dare (Milk Marque chief executive) has agreed to sit on." &#42

Shelley Wright