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UPDATE: The politics of unpasteurized milk

It is legally permitted to sell raw (unpasteurized) milk in all European Union countries, except Scotland. In the EU, all raw milk products are considered legal and considered safe for human consumption and can be sold without any price, variety or quantity restrictions. Notably, in France, raw milk – and especially raw milk cheeses – are considered the standard for high quality dairy products. In Germany, raw milk is sold widely in health food stores and large supermarkets.

But not so in Canada. In 1991 Health Canada banned the sale of raw milk in this country.

CTV reports, “In late September, the Ontario Court of Justice found Michael Schmidt guilty of 15 charges related to producing and distributing unpasteurized milk, which is banned in Canada. While he waits to hear his sentence in the case, Schmidt began a hunger strike in the hopes of being granted a meeting with the newly re-elected Ontario premier.”

Schmidt was raised on raw milk in Germany and in 1978 started a biodynamic dairy farm there. He immigrated to Canada in 1983 (eight years before raw milk became illegal in Canada).

“His lawyer, Karen Selick, said she has been given instructions to seek an appeal in the case, after a sentencing hearing is held Nov. 25. …The Grey Bruce Health Unit has said it plans to lay further charges against him, Selick said, after he allegedly distributed raw milk at a rally near their office two weeks ago. …The activist farmer is also scheduled to appear in a Vancouver court on Nov. 2 in connection with a co-op near Chilliwack, B.C., that had been slapped with an injunction barring it from distributing raw milk.”

CBC notes, “In August 2006, Health Canada released a statement ‘to remind Canadians not to drink raw (unpasteurized) milk because it could contain bacteria that can make you seriously ill’. …(Ontario’s) milk marketing board, the Dairy Farmers of Ontario, have argued raw milk isn’t fit for widespread distribution. …The British Columbia Ministry of Health calls raw milk ‘a risk to public safety’. …The (Health Canada) reminder warned that these bacteria, which include Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria, could lead to very serious health conditions ranging from fever, vomiting and diarrhea to life-threatening kidney failure, miscarriage and death.”

That said, the sale of raw milk cheese that is aged for at least 60 days is permitted in Canada. And while it is illegal to sell raw milk in Canada, it is legal to drink it here.

“The campaign for real milk says that raw milk comes from cows that are properly fed. Cows that eat green grass provide milk with nutrients like vitamins A and D. They argue that pasteurization enables the milk industry to raise cows in less-expensive, less-healthy conditions. They also say that pasteurization destroys enzymes and diminishes vitamin content. Pasteurization, says the group, is associated with allergies, increased tooth decay, colic in infants, growth problems, osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease and cancer. Many calves fed pasteurized milk die before maturity.”

It might additionally be noted that in August 2009, Schmidt was arrested for blocking a gate to the controversial Site 41 garbage dump. He said in a statement, “We all have to prevent Site 41 from opening. The cry for help to protect all our water has been getting through too slow. …If you now become a criminal when you protect water, protect the environment, protect our land then I have to be a criminal, if that is what it takes to protect the future for our children. …It is a right to have fresh clean water not a privilege! It is our right and it will not be choice when it does not exist.”