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Coughlan announces enhanced Milk Testing Programme

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Mary Coughlan T.D., has announced a new improved regime for the monitoring of milk processors' practices in the testing of milk for payment purposes. The move is in response to a commitment made by the Government in the Social Partnership Agreement, Towards 2016, and follows extensive consultations with the farming organisations and representatives of the milk processing industry.

The new regime will now include a full audit of milk testing laboratories' facilities and management practices. The inspections of milk testing laboratories will be organised on a more systematic basis and improved procedures for reporting and recording the results of inspections will be put in place within the Department.

Checks will be carried out on the calibration of the instruments used in the laboratories in testing milk for butterfat, protein, somatic cell levels, and, where it is being taken into account for payment purposes, the lactose content of the suppliers' milk. There will be increased checking of laboratories' and milk processors' records to ensure that results obtained in the laboratory are correctly attributed and used in the calculation of the price payable to the milk producers.

To ensure there is transparency in the milk testing procedures, as guaranteed under the Partnership Agreement, the findings of these inspections will be published on the Department's website.

Announcing the new regime, Minister Coughlan said: "These new arrangements are a direct response to long standing requests from the farming organisations for greater transparency in the manner in which milk testing is carried out". She continued: "it is important not only that the testing of milk to determine the price payable to the producer should be conducted on a fair and scientifically accurate basis, but that it should be seen as such". The Minister thanked the farm organisations and the processors for their co-operation in finalising this new regime, which will come into operation at the start of the new "Milk Year" on 1st April next.

Date Released: 12 March 2008