18 July 2000
Subsidised school milk set to stay

by Philip Clarke

CHILDREN from poorer families will continue to benefit from half-a-pint a day of subsidised school milk, it has been decided.

European agriculture ministers meeting in Brussels voted unanimously to continue the scheme at a meeting on Tuesday (18 May).

But Brussels will pick up a smaller share of the overall cost, with the remainder left to government top-ups.

The move has prompted fears that the level of subsidy and the number of beneficiaries will fall in the UK.

Currently the commission meets 95% of the cost, equivalent to 91m euros a year, benefiting some 5m school children throughout the EU.

It had proposed cutting this to 48m euros, with member state governments and their dairy industries matching the funding.

But a new formula has been agreed under which the commission will pay 75% of the cost, equivalent to Euro 72m.

The remaining 25% will be at member state discretion. The new regulation will enter into force on Jan 1, 2001.

European farm commissioner Franz Fischler said the new rules would be cost effective and preserve the health and nutritional objectives underlying the scheme.