In 1934 the Milk Marketing Board came into being, and with it the Milk in Schools Scheme. and all its promises to provide millions of school children with milk approved by County Medical Officers. Much effort has been made on school milk in this county. Often it is found that the milk approved does not reach the schools, but other milk does, which has not been covered by the arrangements made by the county council with the Ministry of Agriculture's veterinary staff. This is usually discovered when a school sample is found tuberculous, and arising from the subsequent enquiry. The steps taken as practised in this county are a The proposed producer and supplier is visited, and his methods and cows inspected. b A sample of the bulk milk is procured for cleanliness and disease tests the test for tubercle bacilli takes six weeksthis is unfortunate, but it is the best our laboratories can do. c The supply to the school is approved and the veterinary surgeon of the Ministry is requested to clinically inspect the herd quarterlyno authority exists to tuberculin test cows without permission of the owners. Visits to schools are made frequently and samples of milk are tested from time to time. Those schools situated in convenient areas in the county receive pasteurised milk, which, incidentally, does not always satisfy the requirements of law, despite the cry often heard that pasteurisation is the cure for all unsatisfactory milk. The supplier has to be relied upon to deliver the approved milkif he does not, the control instigated is somewhat lost, except the milk he is actually delivering is tested about once in three months. As there are some 250 schools taking milk this work is considerable. What control is operative in other counties I cannot say, but it is felt that the control of milk supplied to children leaves very much to be desired. As previously stated, steps ought to be taken to direct, wherever possible, tuberculin tested milk into the schools. At present this milk is largely wasted. Suppliers to schools, in the main, are not desirous of the business, and decline it whenever possible. County councils are also active through their agricultural and advisory departments. Very useful work had been done in this direction, but such activity is nonstatutory, and the Dairy Instructors may only visit farms when help is requested. The scope of this work has been enhanced by the inclusion in the war agricultural departments of a milk production section. Thus a further staff has been created, which possesses new sampling officers to sample milk, after it has been sold and received at the collecting depots throughout the country. This staff, which at the moment is declared to be for war time only, probably supersede numerically all the peace time milk administrators. The reasons for setting up the war time staff is to prevent losses of milk due to bad production, and to increase production. It is obvious that if the peace time arrangements could be consolidated, and a bold administration proceeded with, to compel the producers and others to comply with the law on the subject, there would be no need for a new body, which probably will remain after peace comes. What is needed, and this has been the case for many years, is a real drive for clean, diseasefree milk. The position as outlined in this lengthy statement is not due to the present emergency. The muddle has been in operation throughout all the past. What is required, in my opinion, is modification of the legislation whereby all the administrative control of milk, other than marketing which the Milk Marketing Board can manage, is brought under the control of a central authority. If county councils are to continue in the postwar period I am of the opinion that this body should be that central authority. One department, possessing the necessary classes of fulltime officers, including a section for educational and advisory work, could effectively and uniformly administer the law, which would result in the clean, safe milk which England craves for. I think it would be too much to hope for, whereby the Ministry of Agriculture's veterinary staffs might be included once more on the county council staff. On second thoughts, it may be well that they remain where they are, provided the staffs are adequate to cover at regular intervals all the herds, with powers to tuberculin test, as well as to clinically examine, when necessary. It has never yet been made a penal offence to dispose of cows which react to the tuberculin test, consequently a producer may, and does, pass tuberculous cows on through the open market to other producers. Surely the sale of such animals should be prevented as a first step to stop the spread of infection, and some means found of gradually eliminating them by destruction. An arrangement could be made whereby the county council staff may work in close cooperation with the Ministry's veterinary surgeons, mainly by indicating where tuberculous infection exists as a result of milk sampling. The Animal Health Divisions of the Ministry are established throughout the country, each serving a small group of counties with veterinary staffs housed in each county. Such a new beginning would obviate the necessity of putting the cart before the horse, which is really the trend of things as seen in the establishment of the National Milk Testing Scheme. This scheme will show that large quantities of milk has a poor keeping quality, because of the lack of inadequate inforcement of the law. I say get the law administered in the first place. I cannot close without touching on the subject of marketing. For years milk producers have not been paid enough for their product. I used to think that better payment would almost solve the dirty milk problem, because this would enable the farmer to pay a wage which would attract the labour of more suitably educated persons who would thereby respond to modern methods. Milking cows properly is not the job for the village idiot it is highly skilled work. However, judging by the small number of producers who have taken advantage of the Designated scheme, whereby they receive extra payment, doubts arise as to whether better prices would of necessity improve the nature of production. It must be remembered that the law has required milk producers to provide a clean milk, but, because for one reason and another this has not been done, the legislature, by the introduction of the Designated Orders, recognised clean and dirty milk, extra payment being arranged to induce the production of clean milk to those who had hitherto not carried out their legal obligations. All milk should be of one grade, conforming to a bacteriological standard of purity, and eventually all cows should pass periodically the tuberculin test. It is very necessary, however, to pay producers a fair price, and enforcement of the law would thereby become easier. You will never have a pure milk supply by the continuance of a policy of tinkering and patching. The whole setup needs altering, and vested interests prevented from barring the way to progress. There are other diseases besides tuberculosis which need dealing with in the interests of agriculture generally, but it seems that tuberculosis is the one which is the most capable of transmitting serious disease to man, with the exception of contagious abortion. The recently introduced plan whereby, for the payment of a premium by the dairy farmer, a periodic clinical inspection of his cattle is undertaken is good as far as it goes, but it is only tinkering about with the few herds which to date have adopted the scheme. Already official samples of milk from such herds have been noted to be tuberculous. In view of the large sum of money which is apparently available, but which in one way or another is being largely wasted, why not embark upon a bold scheme of disease eradication by compulsory methods, instead of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries scheme of attestation, which again is voluntary.
British Food Journal – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jun 1, 1943
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