From the Director-General of the BRITISH RETAIL CONSORTIUM
William Moyes' letter to the Prime Minister April 13 2001

(our emphasis) "...At your meeting on Thursday you asked for a considered view on the proposed policy of vaccination of dairy cattle in Cumbria and possibly Devon. This letter is written on behalf of all the retailers present at your meeting. In the time available it has not been possible to consult more-widely.

The decision whether to vaccinate is entirely a matter for the Government. In deciding how to respond to such a development the key consideration for retailers would be public confidence. If that were to evaporate and customers were to demand the separate identification of milk from vaccinated cattle in restricted areas, ultimately retailers would have to respond. In these circumstances it is likely that retailers would wish to stock milk and dairy products only from unvaccinated herds. To do otherwise would risk undermining confidence in the British dairy industry.

So long as public confidence is maintained, the retailers present at your meeting will all stock as part of their normal offering milk and dairy products made from pooled miIk supplies which include milk from vaccinated herds.

We believe the maintenance of public confidence requires the following :-

  • An unequivocal and authoritative assurance that FMD and vaccination poses no threat to human health i.e the virus is not transmitted from cattle to humans through the food chain and cannot be transmitted from vaccinated cattle to humans via milk or meat. The FSA is best placed to give this.
  • No "two tier" system i.e. no separate identification at any stage of milk supplies or dairy products from vaccinated herds.
  • At the point where the introduction of vaccination is announced a clear statement that milk from vaccinated herds will be used as part of general milk supplies.
  • Public support from farmers' representatives

    In addition, the location of processing plants means that it will be essential to obtain EU agreement that bulk milk can be transported outside of Cumbria for packing.

    Public confidence in dairy products could be damaged if there were major inconsistencies in the public statements made by Government (including the devolved administrations), farmers' representatives, food manufacturers or retailers. We would therefore encourage the Government to develop a coordinated communications strategy involving all these parties, and to plan against the possibility that public confidence will waver ( e.g. if doubts were to be cast on the degree of risk to human health). We also believe that it would be desirable to consult other major food retailers not present at your meeting, if time permits. BRC would be happy to undertake that.

    Retailers understand the pressures facing farmers and the difficult choices required of Government. We will assist in any way we reasonably can. However, if the above conditions cannot be met, it would be much more difficult for retailers to confirm now that they will stock milk and dairy products ftom vaccinated herds. We would therefore welcome your confirmation that the Government's approach will be based on the above points if you decide to introduce vaccination.

    I am copying this letter to Nick Brown at MAFF.

    William Moyes