Selfridges Faces Legal Action Over Selling Raw Milk; Court Case Will Also See Farmer Prosecuted

What would Mr Selfridge say? Major department store Selfridges faces prosecution from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) after supplying raw cow milk.

The FSA confirmed its intention to prosecute Selfridges and Stephen Hook, the farmer who supplied the company with raw cow milk for sale, for breaches of food hygiene regulations.

The decision follows a detailed investigation after vending machines dispensing raw cow milk were installed at Selfridges in 2011. The FSA will consider taking action where it has evidence that regulations have been breached.

Seperately, the board of the FSA is currently reviewing the rules governing the sale and marketing of unpasteurised, or raw, drinking milk and cream, after producers started using new routes of sale for their products, such as the internet and vending machines.

The sale is currently banned outright in Scotland, but restricted sales of raw drinking milk and cream are allowed in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Most milk and cream on sale in the UK is heat-treated to kill any harmful bacteria or virus that could be present. There is an inherent food safety risk associated with drinking raw milk because germs, normally killed by pasteurisation, may be present. Older people, infants and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to food poisoning, so are advised not drink it.

Summons have been served to both parties, and a hearing date has been set for 6 February at Westminster Magistrates Court.

A Selfridges spokeswoman told the Press Association: "We do not believe that we have committed any offence. As this matter is subject to legal proceedings, we are unable to comment further at this stage."

The Food Standard Agency's rules on raw milk

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, unpasteurised cows' milk can only be sold direct to consumers from farms or direct from the farmer. This includes routes such as farmers' markets and milk rounds, or as part of a farm catering operation. The sale of raw milk is not allowed in Scotland.

Raw milk must be labelled to let consumers know that it has not been pasteurised and may contain organisms harmful to health. Farms selling raw cows' drinking milk direct to consumers are also inspected more frequently than businesses producing all pasteurised milk.

Cheeses made with unpasteurised milk, are more widely available for sale, and must be labelled as being 'made with raw milk' or 'made with unpasteurised milk'. Cheese is subject to production processes which should reduce the risk from pathogens, these processes include salting, acidification and maturation.