11/29/2006

Raw Milk

I saw a brief news clip on this story last night.
A hunger-striking Ontario farmer came to Toronto Wednesday to further his protest against rules that prohibit the sale of unpasteurized milk.
Michael Schmidt was expected to hold a news conference at a Toronto restaurant owned by celebrity chef Jamie Kennedy. American raw milk advocate Sally Fallon and Ontario Landowners Association President Randy Hillier were also slated to attend.
The conference comes a day after Schmidt was confronted by police and public heath authorities north of Toronto on a bus where he sells raw milk -- a practice banned in Ontario since the 1930s.
Authorities surrounded the bus but Schmidt refused to let them in.
"They kind of stood around the whole bus for probably over an hour," Schmidt told The Canadian Press. "Finally, they left."
The incident came one week after Schmidt's farm near Durham, Ont., about 45 kilometres south of Owen Sound, was raided by Ministry of Natural Resources inspectors.
Since the raid, Schmidt, 52, has not eaten any food, surviving only on water and raw milk.
He said he will continue the strike until his equipment, confiscated in the raid, is returned along with a promise that he'll be left alone.
"This is a battle out of principle," said Schmidt. "This is a battle that people gain respect again for the farmer."
"When there is a law which is unjust and which claims that the milk is OK as long as the farmer drinks it, but the milk is dangerous as soon as it crosses the road, that law doesn't make sense."
Schmidt blamed "ego-tripping bureaucrats" for the raid last week that he considers an excessive show of force.
Canadian health authorities say unpasteurized milk can contain potentially lethal E. coli, salmonella and other dangerous organisms. Federal law restricts the sale or free distribution of such milk in Canada and Ontario's Milk Act also has a similar clause.
Raw milk advocates say the milk offers health benefits and is safe as long as it is carefully handled by farmers.
Following a conviction in 1994, Schmidt used a loophole in the Milk Act that allows farmers to drink raw milk from their own cows.
He signed up 150 cow-shareholders with each buying a share of a cow for $300. Participants then pay $2 a litre for the milk that their animal produces.
Members include Ontario Finance Minister Greg Sorbara's wife, reported CP.
On Wednesday, Sorbara said the province should look at legalizing the sale of raw milk -- a practice safely done in parts of the U.S. and Europe.
Premier Dalton McGuinty said he won't do it, calling the matter an issue of public health.
Schmidt supplies weekly produce, meat, bread and raw milk to families in the Walkerton region and in Toronto via the joint-ownership program.

Where do I even begin with this story?
Raw milk is far superior to the crap you buy in the store. There is no comparison between the taste and nutrient content. The more milk is processed, the less nutrients it has in it. That the farmer and his family can safely consume raw milk under the law ought to give everyone pause: if they can drink it, why can't it be supplied to the public? If there is genuine concern about problems as e. coli, in the event of an outbreak the best solution would be to fine or jail the offending farmer.
The heart of the debate is not about the safety of milk, however. It is about market control. The Milk Board is currently so heavily regulated that, were I rich and wanting to open my own dairy farm, there is no conceivable way I could make a profit. I would have to buy one of the already existing big dairy farms, like Beatrice or Neilson.
If an individual farmer were allowed to sell his milk without the excessive regulation and control of the Milk Board, the industry would be turned on its head. Big companies would now have to worry about competition and loss of revenue... and we can't have that, can we?

8 comments:

jeff said...

it's not as simple as that. if we,as a society, want to purchase raw milk, it has to regulated first. otherwise, say hello to bacteria commonly found in raw, unpasteurized dairy products: Campylobacter jejuni, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella (over 1600 types) and Listeria monocytogenes. People, this stuff isn't for kids or anyone else, unless you enjoy muscle pain followed by diarrhea (sometimes bloody), acute kidney failure, high fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, meningitis, spontaneous abortion (in pregnant women) or death. Those are just some of the symptoms associated with the types of food poisoning that can be caused by drinking raw milk. - alex avery,milkis milk blog

Ruth said...

That is only a small part of the story. What Avery did not mention is the degree of risk... which, I hate to break it to you is very small. It is not "commonly found." Be more critical: if that bacteria is "commonly found," why does the law also not cover the farmer and the farmer's family? As mentioned in the CTV article, there are countries which safely allow the purchase of raw milk. I drank plenty of the stuff growing up (as did my family) without a problem.
As I said, there are other ways of dealing with an offending farmer besides excessive regulation. Stiff fines or jail time in the event of an outbreak would work just as well.

Shane said...

The laws were pased in the 30's which should tell you something. It was passed because the milk industry was rife with shysters who would produce the milk in unsanitary conditions which would pose a health risk. Secondly they were watering the milk and adding chalk or talc to the water for colour. The ordinary person did not have the litigious power that we do today. Nor did they have access to multiple sources of milk - they were captive to local producers who could get the milk to market before it curdled. So people had no choice but to buy from unscrupulous local shysters. This required legislation to curb.

Today the rules are unnecessary. We now have access to milk produced all over the place. My local grocery stores, all told, probably supply milk from 6 or 7 different producers. If one of them was a bad quality, then nobody would buy it and the shyster would go out of business. If someone got sick drinking the milk from one of them, that would sound the death knell for that dairy if the word got out to the media. If that didn't get them, then litigation would extract millions from them and drive them to curb their ways or go out of business.

Think about it with water sales. If someone sold bottled water from Walkerton, do you think they would be in business today? Nope. On the other hand, if Whistler water makes someone sick, they will face the same shunning. However, there is nothing stopping anyone from selling bottled water from their tap. Why are there such draconian rules about selling bottled liquid from their cow?

Jack said...

I direct your readers to this article. It came up today while I was chastizing Sorbara.

http://www.notmilk.com/forum/463.html

Ruth said...

Your article leaves much to be desired. It contains little real research. You have presented an advocacy point of view, not fact.

Here is an extremely in-depth research article examining both pasteurized milk and unpasteurized milk.
http://www.karlloren.com/aajonus/p15.htm

An advocacy article outlining the benefits of raw milk:
http://www.mercola.com/2004/apr/24/raw_milk.htm
and the downsides of over-pasteurized milk:
http://www.mercola.com/2003/mar/26/pasteurized_milk.htm

Ruth said...

PS: In the research article I presented, please pay close attention to bacteria growth in pasteurized milk. In the raw milk debate you will hear many claims that pasteurized milk is ALWAYS safer. This is not true, and it is important to get the facts.

todd said...

Jeff, Alex Avery is not someone you should trust to have an impartial opinion about food. I've written about him here and in other blog posts of mine. He's never met a dead, processed, sterilized, refined, chemical-laden, juiced-up food he didn't like.

Ruth is right, the actual risk of getting sick from good, clean raw milk is very low. Based on your argument, nobody should ever eat spinach again because a batch of it was tainted with E Coli and some people got sick. So, if there's a potential to get sick, it should be forbidden? Come on, look at all the food that makes people sick, and some people want to single out raw milk? Ridiculous.

Ruth Ann said...

Milk of any sort is only responsible for LESS than 1.5% of ALL foodborne outbreaks. Why do they outlaw clean raw milk and not produce or ground beef? Two of the LARGEST foodborne outbreaks were caused by PASTEURIZED milk. One sickened 16,000 and the other over 200,000! Check out http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Hudson_Institute
to learn the truth about Dennis Avery. He is funded by BIG businesses like Monsanto, ConAgra, Cargill, and Archer Daniels Midland to name a few. His agenda is as obvious as his organization's $9.3 million support from BIG businesses! His website should be called "nottruth.com"

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