Raw milk dairy tries to sidestep injunction by labeling products cosmetics - The Green Man
Raw milk dairy tries to sidestep injunction by labeling products cosmetics (external - login to view)
By Randy Shore (external - login to view) 30 Dec 2010 COMMENTS(1 The Green Man (external - login to view)
Filed under: food, raw milk, nutrition
VANCOUVER - A Chilliwack raw-milk dairy ordered to stop distributing unpasteurized milk is now calling its products cosmetics.
Tearing a page from the history books, Our Cows cow-share cooperative now labels raw milk and raw-milk dairy products as Cleopatra's bathing milk, raw milk skin care lotion and face cream, according to farmer Michael Schmidt.
"Let's be clear, these are not dairy products, these are cosmetics," Schmidt told The Sun.
"The contents of these cosmetic products are unpasteurized dairy products." Not everyone is convinced.
"Fraser Health's position is that Our Cows continues to violate the March 18, 2010 Supreme Court injunction prohibiting Home on the Range from packaging and/or distributing raw milk and/or raw milk products for human consumption and has issued a formal notice to the new operator demanding that he cease and desist," Fraser Health spokeswoman Naseem Nuraney wrote in response to a query from The Sun.
Our Cows member Gordon Watson left little doubt about his intended use for the cosmetics he is allotted: "I most certainly do drink the raw milk I receive as a dividend of my asset," he said.
According to Health Canada, non-sterilized milk is unsafe to drink because it can contain bacteria such as salmonella, E. coli and listeria that may lead to potentially debilitating illnesses.
Provincial health officer Perry Kendall warned in a public statement that the perceived benefits of drinking raw milk are greatly outweighed by the "serious risks" of disease. Tests conducted on products from Home on the Range earlier this year by the BC Centre for Disease Control found evidence of fecal contamination.
Advocates of raw milk say the heating process of pasteurization destroys healthy enzymes and leads to lactose intolerance.
Schmidt took over the Home on the Range cow-share cooperative, since renamed Our Cows, after the original livestock manager Alice Jongerden was charged with contempt of court for failing to heed an order to stop operations issued last spring by Fraser Health and upheld by the B.C. Supreme Court.
Schmidt plans to take his fight back to the courts early in 2011.
"We are preparing a case to set aside the original order of [Madam Justice Miriam] Gropper," Schmidt told The Sun. "We believe it is a constitutional issue."
Fraser Health took action against Home on the Range for violating the Public Health Act, which prohibits the distribution of raw milk for human consumption, because a person must not willingly cause a health hazard. The Milk Industry Act deems unpasteurized milk a "health hazard."
It is legal for the owner of a cow to drink the raw milk it produces. The 22 cows at Home on the Range, now called Our Cows, are owned by more than 400 cooperative members who own shares in the cows and are entitled a share of the dairy products they produce.
Jongerden had hoped to sidestep the Public Health Act by labelling the farm's products "not for human consumption" but that failed to gain any traction with the court.
Since taking over the dairy, Schmidt has signed all the members of the Chilliwack cow share to new contracts that entitle them to a share of dairy-based cosmetics produced by their cows.
Schmidt also will be back in court in Ontario in February to face an appeal by the provincial government related to the operation of his Durham-based cow-share.
In January, an Ontario justice threw out 19 charges laid against Schmidt, who had argued he wasn't guilty of distributing to 150 customers because they were all entitled to the milk after each purchasing a $350 share in the cows he kept at Glencolton Farms, just north of Toronto.
The judge agreed, seemingly ending a 16-year-long legal battle, until the government of Ontario filed an appeal.
"There's still a push on the whole raw-milk issue," said Schmidt, 55. "We still need to force a discussion to resolve it. The consumer pressure isn't going away."
Since the ruling, cow-share operations have quietly grown in numbers in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. Many of the businesses rely on word of mouth.
The demand prompted Schmidt to start Cow Share Canada, an organization that accredits raw-milk operations by providing production, testing and inspection guidelines to existing and emerging dairy farmers.
Last year, 15 farms signed up for a weekend course the organization held on how to produce safe raw milk. It was so successful the course will be offered across Canada beginning in the new year.
Out of all the G8 countries, Canada is the only one to prohibit the sale of raw milk.
A growing number of organic food experts and consumers believe Canadian laws are outdated and do not reflect current technology, which they claim has made unpasteurized milk not just safe, but healthy, to drink.
This debate is also being fuelled by a growing movement across Canada with consumers demanding a say on what they eat and where the food comes from.
"This debate is sort of an awakening on what we want to put in our mouths," said Schmidt. "That's a dominant theme here, that people are increasingly having trouble digesting pasteurized milk and looking at raw milk as an alternative."
He said a blanket ban on raw milk is "discriminatory," when so many other foods approved by Health Canada -- from spinach to cheese -- constantly undergo health recalls.
"Why don't we kind of harmonize our old approach to raw milk?" asked Schmidt. "The focus right now is fighting it, with tooth and nail, like every province. We need a national debate."
The Dairy Farmers of Canada, which represents the nearly 13,000 farms across the country, has come out against farmers who have chosen to illegally provide raw milk to consumers.
"You look at any study and it shows there's high levels of pathogenic bacteria [in raw milk]. It really is dangerous to consume," said spokeswoman Elizabeth Cork in Ottawa. "We don't, in any circumstances, advocate drinking raw milk."