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Got raw milk?

It's time to get rid of laws that ban the sale of unpasteurized milk to willing consumers. If nothing else, let's call off the milk police

I can’t believe the Ontario government and police (read: the milk police) are still harassing Michael Schmidt. The Durham, Ont., farmer sells raw milk to dozens of willing purchasers who each own a portion of his farm in what’s called a farmshare program.

For years, Ontario’s ministries of agriculture, natural resources and finance, plus the local police, have had a vendetta against Schmidt. They’ve raided his farm and, in October, tried to intercept a delivery truck carrying raw milk to his customers. Schmidt was also charged with stealing government video cameras (more on that later).

The law in Canada is that raw milk cannot be sold to the public because it poses a health risk. Yet thousands of farmers and their friends drink raw milk without problems. Schmidt’s customers are all willing purchasers of his raw milk and no one has ever become sick from drinking it.

Health officials say pasteurized milk retains all the nutrients and health benefits of raw milk, but without dangerous bacteria. Raw milk advocates say nutrients and bacteria in raw milk make it healthier than pasteurized milk.

The law that stops raw milk consumption was drafted years ago when farms were not always as sanitary, and cows were milked by hand, creating opportunity for germs to spread. Sanitation is vital in raw milk production, and Schmidt runs a sanitary operation.

It’s time to kill this antiquated law and replace it with one based on the fact that today’s farms are clean and people should have a choice of what they drink. If legislation is not repealed, then the milk police should retire their shields and turn a blind eye. Government books are full of old laws that no longer apply and are ignored.

I’m not advocating open sale of raw milk to the public, but I can’t see why people who want to buy raw milk should be prevented from doing so from a reliable source such as Schmidt.

In the U.S., 10 states, from Maine to California, allow the sale of raw milk to the public. Another 18 states allow farms to sell raw milk. Raw milk is also common in Europe. Countries such as France and Italy even allow raw milk to be sold from vending machines.

Why raw milk so inflames
Ontario authorities really puzzles me. With so much being consumed all over Canada and in other developed countries, I think our old laws make Canada look more than a bit behind the times.

Schmidt’s supporters managed to turn away the milk police when they tried to intercept the delivery truck carrying raw milk to customers. Good for them. If these people want raw milk, why should the government stop them?

And when Schmidt was charged over the video camera incident, it smacked of harassment because it was Schmidt himself who reported the existence of the cameras. Police said he had removed the cameras, which belonged to the Ministry of Natural Resources, but he said his upset neighbours removed them and turned them over to a lawyer to try to find out who placed them there. Why would there be cameras in his neighbourhood anyway? Surveillance? Harassment?

I don’t buy raw milk, and I am not part of Schmidt’s farmshare. But when I was a kid, I had asthma and was allergic to hay, dust, ragweed and more, until one summer vacation when the only milk we could get was raw, from the farmer down the road. Within three months my allergies and asthma were gone. Coincidence? Maybe.

Let’s just leave Michael Schmidt and his customers alone.

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