30 June 2000

United Milk seeks anthraz assurance

UNITED MILK claims it has secured assurances that fears of a deadly cattle disease pose no threat to its proposed £40m dairy plant in Wiltshire. Land near the proposed factory site at Westbury has a history of anthrax outbreaks stretching back 40 years, it emerged last week (News, 23 June).

United Milk claims to have asked the Ministry of Agriculture, the Environment Agency and local government officials to assess the risk to human health from the disease.

A letter from the company to FARMERS WEEKLY said: "We remain firmly of the view that the proposed site at Northacre Industrial Park is entirely suitable for a milk processing facility and that anthrax fears in connection with the facility are unfounded."

United Milk is also taking expert advice from Peter Turnbull, a former head of the anthrax section at the Centre for Applied Microbiology and Research Department under the Department of Health.

Dr Turnbull said: "In my opinion, there is no scientific, public health or product-based reason why the anthrax-related history of the Westbury area should deter United Milk from going ahead with the proposed plant."

A local pressure group, Unite to Protect the Area West of Westbury, has vowed to maintain opposition to the development.

United has secured £35m of conditional funding for the factory which it claims will be the biggest custom-made milk-processing plant in the UK. A share offer launched earlier this month in a bid to raise a further £20m from dairy farmers has been extended by two weeks to July 4.