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Ontario court could permanently shut down raw milk sales

Raw milk advocates on both sides of the 48th parallel are worried about the outcome of a trial in Ontario because they fear it could provide the template for ending sales of milk without pasteurization throughout Canada.

The trial almost seems like a re-run because it involves the Crown versus Ontario’s best known raw milk outlaw, Michael Schmidt or at least Schmidt’s Co-op at Glencolton Farm in Grey County. Schmidt has been no stranger to enforcement actions by the Province and the Crown over the past couple decades, winning as many rounds as he’s lost.

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Michael Schmidt

This time an Ontario judge, who could rule any day now, is being asked to issue a permanent injunction against Schmidt’s Coop, prohibiting both the sale and purchase of raw milk. The action might criminalize all distribution and potentially even the consumption of raw milk. All legal and court costs could immediately fall upon Schmidt and the co-op members, totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars. And payment by others won’t be permitted.

Sabrina Maddeaux, writing for News Canada, reports “Ontario’ nanny state is once again spiraling out of control.” On the U.S. side of the border, David Gumpert, author of  “The Raw Milk Answer Book: What You REALLY Need to Know About Our Most Controversial Food” says Ontario government “seems finally to have settled on its version of the ‘nuclear’ option.”

The Crown claims Schmidt’s Co-op is operating without a license and is violating the Canadian Milk Act. Schmidt and members of the farm co-op began presenting their case  Tuesday.

Already, there’s speculation on what happens if the judge issues an injunction. Schmidt told Gumpert it would mean “mothers can be criminally charged when they pick up the milk.”

Canada’s raw milk advocates often point out that theirs is the only G8 nation that completely bans raw milk. Injunctive action, they say, would shut down the raw milk dairy at Glencolton Farms and prevent distribution to Our Farm Our Food Coop members in the York Area. The injunctions might even criminalize the suggesting people drink raw milk.

A lively discussion on Gumpert’s Complete Patient blog debated whether acts of civil disobedience should follow any court injunction in Ontario. Mark McAfee, owner of Organic Pastures in California, where sales of organic milk are permitted at retail locations, said “sometimes it takes a big ugly incident to make enough ugly news to create change.”

The Canadian Food and Drugs Act states:

“No person shall sell the normal lacteal secretion obtained from the mammary gland of the cow, genus Bos, or of any other animal, or sell a dairy product made with any such secretion, unless the secretion or dairy product has been pasteurized by being held at a temperature and for a period that ensure the reduction of the alkaline phosphatase activity so as to meet the tolerances specified in official method MFO-3, Determination of Phosphatase Activity in Dairy Products.”

According to Health Canada, the number of food poisoning incidents from milk has dramatically decreased since pasteurization of milk was made mandatory by Health Canada in 1991. Canada’s raw milk ban does not apply to cheese.

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