The trial may be over, but it seems the public interest in raw milk is still strong. Raw milk is the news story that just won’t go away. Here’s what seems like it could be an attempt to regain some journalistic “balance” after all the pro-raw-milk publicity around the trial. One interesting sidelight to this story is that comments were “closed” already 6 hours after the story was posted. I wonder if comments were ever “open” at all on this story. See excerpt from that Globe and Mail story below the “keep reading” link.
The unwillingness of the pro-pasteurization folks to enter into dialog on the issues seems to be a recurring theme. At the recent International Association of Food Protection raw milk symposium in Virginia, almost the whole FDA contingent withdrew at the last moment when it became apparent that a handful of pro-raw-milk people would also be there. John Sheehan, the FDA’s dairy chief, who had been scheduled to give the keynote address at the symposium was one of these last minute dropouts. With a dozen scheduled FDA attendees gone, there were only 30 or so people at the IAFP Symposium (vs 150 in Toronto). But according to Michael Schmidt, who took part in the conference, the organizers were still very unwilling to open the floor to dialog. They insisted that questions be written on slips of paper and passed up to the speaker for answering.
During Michael Schmidt’s recent trial in Newmarket, Dr. Ted Beals, a pathologist from Michigan, had been invited down to the CBC broadcast centre for a radio interview. When he got there he learned that the interview was to be shared with a public health official from Peterborough. But when the public health official learned that she would be sharing the interview with Dr. Beals, who is a supporter of raw milk, she quickly terminated her participation, complaining about raw milk “evangelicals”. Raw milk folks don’t think of themselves as out to convert the world, but they do tend to be more passionate about their views than government officials who are just doing their jobs.
From Thursday’s Globe and Mail, February 26, 2009 at 10:04 AM EST
The trial of Michael Schmidt is over, and now we await the verdict from the court.
The renegade dairy farmer from Durham, Ont., faces 20 charges related to the sale of unpasteurized milk products. He has pleaded not guilty on all counts.
The outcome of the trial – which has garnered media coverage far beyond its importance – is largely irrelevant.
Mr. Schmidt is, by all accounts, a well-intentioned man. He honestly believes that unpasteurized milk has health benefits for himself and his clients.
It seems somewhat absurd to jail a man for selling a product that clients desperately want and which, on the surface at least, seems harmless. But, hey, it happens to pot dealers every day.
What is not harmless is Mr. Schmidt’s attack on pasteurization and on food-safety regulations more generally.
Under the guise of civil liberties and freedom, he and his supporters have uttered all kinds of nonsense and portrayed themselves as martyrs for pure food.
Under Ontario’s Health Protection and Promotion Act, it is illegal to “sell, offer for sale, deliver or distribute milk or cream that has not been pasteurized or sterilized.” Other provinces have similar rules.
Pasteurization of milk has been mandatory for decades (since 1938 in Ontario), and for good reason.
Before pasteurization – the life-saving invention of Louis Pasteur involves heating a product for a predetermined time at a predetermined temperature to kill bacteria – countless Canadians were sickened and killed by contaminants in milk. Most of them were children and pregnant women, and most were felled by consumption, the once-common term for tuberculosis. We have, through the sound application of public health laws, eliminated bovine tuberculosis in domestic cattle.
But there are still many bacteria that can be found in raw milk, including listeria, salmonella, campylobacter and E.coli 0157.
Still, consumption of raw milk is perfectly legal. Farmer Schmidt and his acolytes can suckle the milk from the teat of a cow, a goat, a cat, or any other lactating mammal to their hearts’ content.
Their rights and freedoms are in no way compromised.
What the law restricts is the commercial sale of raw milk.
Mr. Schmidt tried to circumvent this fact by selling “cow shares” and arguing that his clients were actually proprietors and free to consume raw milk from their own cows.
Whether that little manoeuvre exempts him from the law is up to the courts to decide. But it seems unlikely. After all, bar owners tried this technique to sidestep anti-smoking laws, selling “shares” in their establishment and arguing that patrons were smoking in a private club. Judges saw through the subterfuge.
Mr. Schmidt and his supporters have made some broad claims about the supposed superiority of unpasteurized milk – implying that it is more wholesome and has additional health benefits such as lessening the symptoms of asthma, skin disease and allergies. The implication here is that pasteurization somehow robs milk of nutrients, but these claims have little scientific basis.
Let’s be clear: Pasteurization robs milk of its pathogens and not much else…..”