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The raw milk controversy and the meat regulations

Rating: 3 votes, 1.33 average.
Rochelle, from the COABC listserve posted a link to a speech by a California raw milk producer the other day. I thought it was interesting at least to the extent that raw milk is legally available in about 1/2 of the US states. I didn't know that.
I've never drank raw milk and was brought up understanding that milk needed pasteurizing. I've never questioned that.
I still don't really, and am not interested in taking sides on the milk matter, but I am interested to read that basically the same arguments apply to raw milk as apply to the meat regulations in BC.
You can't sell raw milk because of the risk of illness. Not sure what the documented proof is, but the law is there to protect the consumer. In the case of the California raw milk producer, it looks like the government plays its public interest role in regulating its production, somehow.
With respect to meat, at least in BC, the rules were created because of the purported risk of illness (though we all know it was really a reaction to global trade issues).
In other Canadian jurisdictions, one can still sell uninspected meat. Same in the USA, at least with respect to poultry. I've not looked at the rules governing other meats.
Creates an interesting pair of adversaries, doesn't it: politics versus health. But, I digress.
This morning on the CBC radio, I hear that the raw milk issue is alive here in BC. And, looking further, I see it has been alive for a while in Ontario. In both cases, at least one of the arguments surrounds the right of a person to choose what they want to eat.
I don't know about the raw milk matter, but I do know that the argument should apply to meat.
Here's why:
There is no evidence that eating uninspected meat has made anyone sick.
Secondly, and maybe more importantly, people cook their meat. To suggest the need for regulations is, in my mind, an insult to everyone who cooks to feed their families, especially those who are willing to look a bit further than the local grocery store for their meats. The rules assume we don't know how to cook, anymore.
People do, and if anything, with the eat local, eat healthy and other return to food basics I keep reading about, cooking skills are likely to get even better.
All the more reason for letting people freely choose what they want to eat.
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  1. Firhill -
    Firhill's Avatar
    I grew up on raw milk. We had our own Jersey milk cow. Mom hand milked her, and just filtered the warm milk and put it into the fridge for the cream to separate.
    then she used a soup ladle to skim off the cream. A neighbour starting getting our milk because her doctor "prescribed" it because he said her kids needed some germs.
    There is nothing like a bowl of whipped cream and graham wafers to share out on the porch on a summer night. None of us ever became ill because of the milk. The
    cow was tested for TB, which is an issue.

    In the Vancouver Sun, January 2, page A9 there was an article from Chilliwack "Raw milk producer fights order to shut down" about Alice Jongerden who has a raw milk operation in Chilliwack and has been accused of being in violatio of the Public Health Act. Fraser Health has served the farm with a cease and desist order and is seeking a court injunction agerst her Home on the Range Farms to stop the distribution of raw milk. The farm has 20 grass fed cows that produce enough milk for 350 households. No one buys milk from the farm - people are shareowners in the cows. Apparently there are seven raw milk dairies in BC. Two weeks ago a Fraser Health rep brought the RCMP to the farm to take photographs.

    I think if someone owns a share in the cow, and is aware of any risks, they should be allowed to have the raw milk.
  2. Bill -
    Bill's Avatar
    Firhill,
    Can you identify which legislation says raw milk can't be sold? I am trying to determine whether there is actual legislation against it in BC of if the farm is being harassed because contamination was found during routine sampling.
    Thanks.
    Bill
  3. Firhill -
    Firhill's Avatar
    The following was sent to a food network:

    Please have a read – Information Bulletin regarding the ‘Home on the Range’ raw dairy products in Chilliwack (attached).



    Products from this distributor have been tested, results show positive for ‘fecal contamination’ (most likely from dairy cows). The bacteria were not specified in this information bulletin but are most likely ones commonly found in unpasteurized dairy products (ecoli, salmonella and campylobacter).

    Pasteurization of raw milk kills most organisms that cause illness, but not all. Therefore, dairy products in Canada are tested to ensure they have a ‘safe’ concentration of bacteria for consumption.

    Additional information can be found:

    www.bccdc.ca.



    http://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthfiles/hfile03.stm.


    Carmen Pellegrino, RD
    Public Health Dietitian
    Tuesdays - Thursdays and alternating Mondays
    Chilliwack Health Unit, Fraser Health
    45470 Menholm Rd
    Chilliwack BC V2P 1M2
    ph (604) 702-4940
    fax (604) 702-4901

    -more-
    INFORMATION BULLETIN
    2010HLS0002-000004 Jan. 5, 2010
    Ministry of Healthy Living and Sport BC Centre for Disease Control Provincial Health Services Authority
    UNPASTEURIZED DAIRY PRODUCTS NOT SAFE FOR CONSUMPTION VANCOUVER – The BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) is advising British Columbians to discard any unpasteurized dairy products from the Home on the Range raw dairy in Chilliwack. As part of an ongoing investigation by public health officials in Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health, the BCCDC Public Health Labs recently tested products from this dairy, which distributes through a variety of outlets in the Lower Mainland. Products tested included unpasteurized raw milk, yogurt, cream, butter and cream cheese. Of these samples, five tested positive for fecal contamination. These lab results mean these dairy products were contaminated with germs from the bowels of animals or humans. The risk of disease from consuming these unpasteurized products is very high and can cause serious illness in people, especially young children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems. Locations where products were tested include Ethical Kitchen (North Vancouver); Controversial Kitchen (Vancouver); and Ayurveda (Vancouver). Home on the Range raw dairy also distributes products to Anita's Pharmacy (Burnaby); Ladybug Organics (Surrey/Langley); and Rockwell Farms (Abbotsford). Unpasteurized milk – often referred to as raw milk – is consumed directly from the cow, goat or sheep without any process to destroy disease-causing bacteria like E. coli, salmonella and campylobacter. The sale of raw milk is illegal in Canada. There have been cases of illness caused by the consumption of raw milk in B.C., including in children who were given raw milk by well-intentioned parents. There is no credible or scientific evidence that raw milk produces any measurable health benefits over pasteurized dairy products.
    - 2 -
    What can you do to protect yourself and your family? Do not consume unpasteurized (raw) milk. Anyone can get sick from the disease-causing bacteria or germs, which may be found in raw milk. Infants, children, seniors, and people with certain chronic diseases are more vulnerable to infection and have higher risk of getting sick from drinking raw milk. Infants and children are at greatest risk of complications. Buy your milk products from only grocery or other commercial stores. Milk that you buy must be pasteurized and packaged at an approved dairy plant.
    For more information on unpasteurized milk, and food borne infections, please visit: www.bccdc.ca. http://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthfiles/hfile03.stm.
    -30-
    Contact:
    Jeff Rud Communications Director Ministry of Healthy Living and Sport 250 952-2387
    Ritinder Harry Communications Specialist BC Centre for Disease Control Phone: 604 707-2412
    For more information on government services or to subscribe to the Province’s news feeds using RSS, visit the Province’s website at www.gov.bc.ca.
  4. Bill -
    Bill's Avatar
    The Milk Industry Amendment Act, 1997 says a person cannot sell contaminated milk. It also defines "milk in fluid form" as either pasteurized or unpasteurized. That's all I have found so far.
    Bill
  5. Firhill -
    Firhill's Avatar
    Another perspective

    -------- Original Message --------
    Subject: [coabc_list] About the cow share program
    Date: Fri, 8 Jan 2010 15:43:31 -0800
    From: Christopher Bodnar
    To: coabc_list@certifiedorganic.bc.ca

    Hello everyone,

    Here is information about the cow share program currently under attack
    by various levels of government. To provide context for my
    perspective, my family has two shares in this herd, we also drink raw
    milk from our own herd of goats, and I drank raw milk while growing
    up. We are also friends of the owners of this dairy (alas, the
    small-scale sustainable farming community remains small).

    Home on the Range Dairy has been operating in Chilliwack since 2007.
    The Dairy is owned and operated by Alice Jongerden and her family.
    They rent the facilities in which they operate their dairy. Their herd
    is made up of Jerseys and a few Guernseys. The dairy operates as a
    herd share because it is illegal to sell raw milk in Canada. As such,
    each member purchases a share in the herd and the farmers are
    contracted to care for the herd and provide members' milk products to
    them. In order to operate in this manner, Alice provided all of her
    herd share contracts to the provincial Ministry of Agriculture and
    Fraser Health prior to starting. She wanted to ensure that if they
    were going to shut her down they would do so before she invested time
    and money into the operation. At that time no one objected.

    In summer 2008, regional health departments received complaints about
    Home on the Range's operation. At that time the dairy was served with
    an order to stop selling their milk. Home on the Range responded by
    making labeling clear on their bottles that the milk was not for sale.
    Every bottle has a label reading "sharemember property; NOT FOR SALE".
    A challenge to this order went to court but is delayed until the
    Schmidt verdict is delivered in Ontario.

    In mid-December 2009, a child was hospitalized in the Lower Mainland
    due to what may have been food-borne illness. When medical officials
    learned that the family was a member of the herd share, Vancouver
    Coastal Health and Fraser Health officials seized all milk products
    from shareholder pick-up locations and ordered Home on the Range to
    stop distribution. It should be noted that no one else has gotten sick
    from this milk, despite the fact that over 300 families get weekly
    milk products through their shares in the dairy, nor was that illness
    linked to the milk other than by way of association because the child
    has consumed raw milk.

    Since then, shareholders have been either driving to the farm to get
    their milk or meeting in unannounced locations to pick up their milk.
    By going after this dairy, officials have taken an operation that was
    operating with full transparency (anyone could visit their farm;
    anyone could know where the milk was being picked up from) and created
    a situation where individuals are having to meet secretly to get a
    product that legally belongs to them.

    Test results of the milk products by the BC Centre for Disease Control
    indicate colony forming units (CFU) ranging between 1,300 for the
    butter, up to 3,000 for other products. The fluid milk was 2,400. It
    should be noted that these figures are actually low compared to
    acceptable levels for raw milk sold in other parts of North America
    (10,000 cfu) and are also lower than acceptable levels (10,000 cfu)
    for pasteurized milk sold in retail stores in BC.

    Nonetheless, regional and provincial officials have issued a public
    health advisory telling people to discard their raw milk products
    claiming that the products contain fecal matter. They have been
    interviewed by media stating that drinking raw milk is dangerous,
    particularly for children and individuals with compromised immune
    systems.

    I have visited Home on the Range Dairy in the Past (in fact, my wife
    went to their farm weekly to help with chores through much of 2008 and
    early 2009) and can attest to the fact that their operations are
    exceptional. The grass and hay diet fed to the cows is clean (as many
    of you know, diseases such as listeria are the result of moldy feed).
    Their milking equipment is kept extremely clean and their milk cooling
    is done immediately. Alice comes from a dairy family and understands
    the importance of herd health, cleanliness and quality of product.

    Pasteurization came about largely due to the rise of large, industrial
    dairies in the 20th century. Many of these were associated with
    distilleries, where spent alcohol grains were fed to dairy cows . . .
    and a diet of grain exclusively for cattle leads to all sorts of
    problems with health and disease of the animal. The milk was of low
    quality and facilities were not maintained to high standards.
    Pasteurization was a technological fix but didn't address the actual
    problems associated with industrial farming.

    Despite their careful operations and diligence in making sure their
    program would comply with provincial and federal laws, Home on the
    Range has enemies. Other local farmers resent the fact that they
    operate without quota and sell raw milk. Some health officers appear
    to have a personal grudge with the dairy and have been looking for
    excuses to shut them down. At the same time, it should be noted that
    the herd's shareholders tend to be well-educated and have sought out
    means of obtaining raw milk; it's not as though their product has
    shown up unexpectedly on people's tables -- they have taken this
    seriously enough to buy a share in a herd (essentially, creating a
    cooperative/CSA hybrid). Heck, there are even Fraser Health Authority
    staff members who are herd shareholders!

    So, that's some background along with my perspective. Hope this helps
    to clarify things for you. Feel free to ask any questions and I'll do
    my best to answer.

    Cheers -- Chris Bodnar
    Glen Valley Organic Farm
  6. administrator -
    administrator's Avatar
    The following:
    http://agr.wa.gov/FoodAnimal/Dairy/d...guidelines.pdf outlines the requirements and conditions in Washington, right next door to BC, under which dairies can produce and sell raw milk. From a cursory glance, it would appear this approach puts a greater onus on the producer to assure cleanliness and quality; something I think is probably a standard for all responsible dairies anyway.

    Similar stuff, incidentally, applies to production, slaughter and direct
    sales of fewer than 1,000 chickens, In Washington.
    http://agr.wa.gov/FoodAnimal/TempChi.../Handbook.aspx

    Unlike the situation with chickens, on-farm custom, uninspected slaughter of other animals: beef, lamb, goat is permitted for use by the owner, only. http://agr.wa.gov/FoodAnimal/CustomMeats/
  7. administrator -
    administrator's Avatar
    Ontario farmer not guilty of selling raw milk

    Last Updated: Thursday, January 21, 2010 | 1:36 PM ET

    The Canadian Press


    An Ontario farmer who operates a raw milk co-op was found not guilty Thursday of 19 charges related to selling unpasteurized milk.
    Michael Schmidt, from Durham, Ont., defended himself in 2009 against the charges for dispensing milk straight from the cow.
    While raw milk is legal to drink, it's illegal to sell in Canada.
    Schmidt's legal battles sparked a heated debate over the safety of raw milk. Advocates have extolled its flavour and health benefits, while health officials and the province's milk marketing board, the Dairy Farmers of Ontario, have argued raw milk isn't fit for widespread distribution.
    The farmer argued the charges laid against him under the Health Protection and Promotion Act and the Milk Act are unconstitutional and infringe on his rights and freedoms.
    Schmidt operates a 150-cow share raw milk co-operative venture, which allows members to own a portion of the cow to acquire raw milk.
    At trial in Newmarket, Ont., earlier in the week, Schmidt argued that government officials and food scientists cannot guarantee the safety of any food, and suggested informed consumers should be able to buy raw milk.
    Schmidt has stood by his actions since health officials carried out an armed raid of his farm in November 2006 and seized his milking equipment.
    "The rich and sweet taste of unpasteurized milk would blow most people away," Schmidt has said. "I bet that 90 per cent of the people who would have the choice by blind tasting would all go for raw milk because that is the taste of milk and not what you buy on the shelf."
    A private member's resolution to create an all-party task force to examine the issues surrounding raw milk was debated but not passed in the Ontario legislature on Dec. 7.
  8. Firhill -
    Firhill's Avatar
    The Untold Story of Milk, Revised and Updated: The History, Politics and Science of Nature's Perfect Food: Raw Milk from Pasture-Fed Cows (Paperback)
    by Ron Schmid (Author)

    The role of raw milk in the rise of civilization, the milk problem that led to compulsory pasteurization, the politics of the dairy industry. Revised and updated with the latest scientific studies documenting the safety and health benefits of raw milk.Raw milk is a movement whose time has come. This book will serve as a catalyst for that movement, providing consumers with the facts and inspiration they need to embrace Nature's perfect food.

    The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind Americas Emerging Battle Over Food Rights. (Paperback)
    by David E. Gumpert (Author)