Raw-milk farmer wins MPP's support

(Globe and Mail Canada)



An Ontario farmer's drive to legalize the sale of unpasteurized milk direct to the consumer is being backed by a proposed private member's bill to be announced at Queen's Park today.


Michael Schmidt, 54, has been selling raw milk direct to buyers from a farm near Owen Sound for more than 20 years - a practice forbidden under Canadian laws.


The dairy farmer, who has been ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and about $50,000 in legal costs for selling milk fresh from a cow's udder, said he plans to keep supplying his customers until legislation changes.


"I have no intention of paying," Mr. Schmidt said yesterday, adding he was prepared to go to jail if necessary.


The proposed consumer-farmer bill to be announced today comes from Progressive Conservative MPP Randy Hillier (Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington). According to Mr. Hillier, the bill will recognize the legitimacy of purchasing unpasteurized milk products directly from a farm.


"Willing buyers and sellers who are knowledgeable and responsible people should not have to break the law to exercise freedom over their diet."


The proposed bill will not cover retail sales of unpasteurized milk, but will focus on protecting the direct consumer-farmer relationship, Mr. Hillier said, noting he plans to have the bill before the legislature early next year.


Mr. Schmidt will also be delivering a 100-page package detailing the history and benefits of unpasteurized milk to Premier Dalton McGuinty today.


The dairy farmer, originally from Germany, said he has been struggling to sell his milk legally for the past 14 years.


Pasteurization involves heating a liquid so that most of the harmful bacteria in it are killed. Health Canada and the Dairy Farmers of Ontario maintain unpasteurized milk is unsafe because it may contain salmonella, E. coli and listeria.


"Raw milk may be safe much of the time, 95 per cent of the time, and that's not good enough," said Bill Mitchell, a spokesman for the Dairy Farmers of Ontario. 12-10-08





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