This story, titled “Time to get raw milk out of the grey and black market” was sent to us by Pam Killeen. It’s from the National Farmers Union Ontario and is by Grant Robertson:
It is time for a grown up discussion about raw milk. For far too long the discussion has been centred on whether or not drinking raw milk will kill you, or whether it will cure everything under the sun. The truth, like most things, is probably somewhere in the middle. Let’s also be frank, there was good reason that government moved to require the pasteurization of milk and those moves undoubtedly saved countless lives over the intervening decades.
With the decision in a Newmarket court that ruled in favour of Durham, Ontario dairy farmer Michael Schmidt and his raw milk co-operative, the need to have that grown up discussion is more important than ever. Schmidt was vindicated in the ruling which essentially amounted to a decision that those purchasing the shares in his dairy enterprise were aware of the risks raw milk could potentially contain and as aware consumers of the raw milk, had a right to drink it. There was more to it of course, but that seems to be the essence of the ruling. While the ruling was specifically about the Schmidt venture it has wider implications that can no longer be ignored.
Raw milk is sold in many jurisdictions around the world in tightly controlled food safety environments. With modern food safety protocols those jurisdiction have come to the conclusion that raw milk can be sold safely to consumers. In some ways Michael Schmidt’s success in the court room has almost been too successful. Without a regulatory regime in place to protect potential drinkers of raw milk, Schmidt’s success has now potentially opened the door to others who may not be as fastidious as he in ensuring the safest possible product. That potential was always there of course, but those looking at dollar signs rather than any other consideration may now feel they have an opportunity that was too risky to try before.
Pasteurization was brought in to protect the public. Organizations like the Dairy Farmers of Canada and Ontario through the mechanism of supply management have worked very hard to create food safety protocols on the farm that address many of the underlying problems that led to the need for pasteurization in the first place. Some of the supporters of raw milk want to treat the DFC and DFO as villains. The truth is these organizations, while not perfect, are heroes in creating a system that works well for family farmers and protects the health and well-being of milk drinkers with a safe, nutritious product.
The ball is now firmly in their court and once again it will need to be these organizations who step up and develop, with consultation of course, the necessary food safety protocols that will protect consumers, and other dairy farmers from those who might try to cut corners and inadvertently endanger the milk consuming public. But DFC and DFO will not be able to do this alone- government is going to have to stop its hands off approach, hoping that the courts would make a problem disappear and instead get actively involved and show some leadership.
It is evident there is a market for raw mile, both from other jurisdictions and from the success of the Schmidt enterprise. It is far better to have this market served by a strict regulatory process from farm to glass than to have it exist in a black or grey market with little real oversight beyond the diligence of some of the people involved. Rules are not created for those who would do the right thing no matter what. It would only take one person to get sick from one source that was not as diligent as they should have been and all dairy farmers, of every sort, would be affected negatively. We already have a system that works very well in the interests of farmers and drinkers. It is time for raw milk to be regulated and overseen by those agencies that already have the most expertise and with a track record second to none, and a home found for raw milk producers within the supply managed systems.
Grant Robertson is the senior elected official with the National Farmers Union-Ontario. As Ontario Coordinator Robertson is also a National Board Member of the NFU. Grant and his family farm near Paisley, Ontario. The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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