Health authority cracks down on raw milk

Chilliwack farm shareholders forced to deliver dairy produce on their own

(Vancouver Courier Canada)

By Cheryl Rossi


When her four-year-old developed two cavities, Deb Purcell searched for alternatives to fillings. She read books, articles and researched online and concluded raw dairy products could be an answer.


Friends of the Killarney resident told her drinking unpasteurized milk could be dangerous, but Purcell's research convinced her healthy cows allowed to roam produce healthy milk.


"And the reason why we pasteurize the crap out of most of our milk is because the cows aren't properly taken care of and that milk from those cows would be unhealthy," she said.


For the past two months, Purcell has consumed raw dairy products from Home on the Range, a Chilliwack dairy that allows the public to purchase an interest in the herd of 15 Jersey and Guernsey cows, and, as shareholders, pick up milk, yogurt and butter from local depots.


But now she's frustrated after an order from Fraser Health prohibited Alice Jongerden, the dairy farmer who owns Home on the Range, from distributing raw milk for human consumption. The order came under the Health Act after a July 9 inspection to the farm by a Fraser Health inspector.


Shareholders are picking up and delivering the farm's milk on their own as an interim measure.


The farm's shareholder system has operated since May 2007 and includes 250 shareholders in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley. The farm has provided thousands of gallons of raw milk to its shareholders and claims no reports of illness among the milk's consumers.


Purcell says the raw dairy products cost a little more than organic products. She said her four-year-old and two-year-old love the milk and yogurt, but she hasn't given any to her baby.


"My son's cavities haven't gotten any worse. The decay has stopped and some of it's reversed," she said.


Fraser Health won't comment on the case because one shareholder is appealing the order in B.C. Supreme Court. Mike Bernard, senior media relations consultant for Fraser Health, said the authority's inspection system is largely complaint driven, but he didn't know whether a complaint motivated the inspection at Home on the Range.


The sale of raw milk has been prohibited under the federal Food and Drug Regulations since 1991. The sale is also prohibited under B.C.'s Milk Industry Act and the Health Act, which considers raw milk a health hazard.


Pasteurization heats milk to kill disease-causing bacteria. Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria have been found in raw milk and can lead to health conditions ranging from fever, vomiting and diarrhea to kidney failure, miscarriage and death. A 2006 Health Canada bulletin warns children, pregnant women, the elderly and individuals with compromised immune systems are particularly at risk and that any perceived health benefits from raw milk are outweighed by the dangers.


Gordon Watson, the shareholder who launched the appeal, believes the "gourmet product" tastes great and is more nutritious.


Proponents of raw milk argue it includes beneficial bacteria and important enzymes the body needs. They believe people may be lactose intolerant to pasteurized milk but not raw milk.


Watson, a resident of Burnaby and leader of the provincial The Party of Citizens Who Have Decided to Think for Themselves and Be Their Own Politicians, wants raw milk to be legalized in B.C. so anyone can buy it.


He's hopes to settle the case out of court. He believes the province's Health Act and Milk Industry Act don't apply to Home on the Range because the milk isn't sold, but instead is distributed to the cow "owners" for personal consumption. 8-06-08


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