Farmer asks for law change over milk after court case

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A dairy farmer who sold unpasteurised milk in a Selfridges vending machine has agreed to stop the practice while officials decide whether to change the law.

Stephen Hook, 48, of Longleys Farm, Hailsham, was charged with breaching food hygiene rules that state ‘raw’ milk can only be sold directly from a farm.

The Food Standards Agency said this week they would drop the case against him after a formal agreement was signed.

Mr Hook was facing charges relating to the sale of milk at Selfridges’ flagship Oxford Street store, in central London, on six dates between December 2011 and March last year.

The FSA is currently conducting a review into the Food Hygiene (England) Regulation 2006, which will decide whether to legalise the sale of raw milk in vending machines in the future. Its agreement with Hook & Son, the business Mr Hook runs with his father, Phil Hook, only concerns vending machines and does not affect the other areas of the company.

Speaking outside court, Mr Hook said, “They have offered to withdraw the prosecution and we have accepted the offer so the case has been dropped.

“ The safeguards we have got on our farm go far and above the minimum the FSA impose. There is no suggestion that anyone that anyone who bought this had any negative health consequences,’ adding that his farm conducted its own weekly tests for pathogens.’

He added that selling raw milk was a ‘lifeline’ for small independent farmers, and called for the government to change the law to allow it to be sold through vending machines.

“I believe vending machines are important as a means of allowing a farmer who has not got a route to market or is not good at marketing, to sell their milk. It is a lifeline for small independent farmers and it could help to save the local village shop as well.

“I think it is a great way for a farmer to create a new income stream that could save the farm.’

An FSA spokesman said, “Proceedings have been discontinued against Stephen Hook after the FSA received assurances from him that, pending the outcome of a detailed FSA review of the regulations covering the sale of raw milk, he would no longer sell raw cows’ drinking milk from vending machines or from places that are not farm remises.

“Mr Hook supplied the vending machines and the milk.

“ The prosecution against Selfridges was discontinued last month after the FSA also received assurances from them that, pending the outcome of the FSA review, raw cows’ drinking milk would no longer be placed on sale in its premises.’