Last month, residents reacted with shock and disappointment at the news that after years of providing milk to Monmouthshire’s schools, leisure centres and care homes, the council had opted not to renew its contract with Raglan Dairy, but instead to appoint a company based over 100 miles away. 

Instead of milk coming from known local farms, it now comes from Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion and transported to Monmouthshire via a distribution centre in Cardiff.

 Doing some digging into the standards at this distribution centre, we discovered that it was condemned by food hygiene inspectors as recently as late September 2023 and failed in all three categories, which included cleanliness, hygienic food handling and management of food safety. 

The establishment was given an overall score of one out of five and branded ‘major improvement necessary’.  Once the news of this got out, the council revealed what was not in the public domain, that the business had had a re-inspection on February 29and given a new rating of ‘generally adequate’.  This is in contrast to Raglan Dairy, which was awarded the maximum five score in its most recent food hygiene inspection.

 In recent days, the council has been trying to defend the new score of the West Wales supplier.  However, the decision to award the contract was made at the end of January, long before the reinspection, so presumably the council was content to award the contract to a company whose distribution centre had been condemned for consistent breaches of food hygiene regulations. 

Dairy products must be refrigerated at between 3°c and 5°c and a period of just two hours out of a fridge could be enough for milk to begin growing harmful bacteria and become unsafe to drink.  Surely food safety standards would have been a consideration when awarding a contract to supply milk to care home residents and children?

 Next week, we have a full council, a meeting of all 46 councillors, where my colleagues and I will be putting forward a motion calling for the council to take urgent action reverse its decision and ensure that Monmouthshire schools, care homes and other council services can once again enjoy milk from local Monmouthshire farms. 

The motion emphasises how important it is to Monmouthshire residents that the council supports local businesses, procures food products locally and works to reduce food miles as well as its own carbon footprint.  We’re hopeful that it will attract cross-party support.