“Farmer and raw-milk crusader Michael Schmidt has launched another hunger strike in his nearly five-year legal battle to make Ontario the only province to legalize the sale of unpasteurized milk.
The move comes after the Ontario Court of Justice on Wednesday found Schmidt guilty of selling and distributing raw milk and raw-milk products. In a 77-page decision, Ontario Justice Peter Tetley convicted Schmidt of 15 of the 19 criminal offences charged under the province’s Health Protection and Promotion Act and the Milk Act.
In January 2010, Schmidt was found not guilty of 19 charges related to his cow-share business. This week’s decision essentially reverses the acquittal and now Schmidt may face fines, but is unlikely to see jail time.
In Canada, it is illegal to market, sell, distribute or deliver unpasteurized milk or cream. Yet it is legal for farmers and their immediate families to drink raw milk or to use it to make cheese.
“The number of food-borne illness outbreaks from milk has dramatically decreased since pasteurization of milk was made mandatory by Health Canada in 1991,” Health Canada says on its website.
Reached Friday, Schmidt said the danger in unpasteurized milk comes in large industrial production centres, where milk from several farmers is pooled and any one providing bad milk can ruin the whole batch. He said when done properly at a family farm, the production of raw milk can be safer than pasteurized milk from factories.
“The only zero tolerance with regard to food [safety] is with milk,” Schmidt said. “Everywhere there is a calculable risk [that governments] accept, but not with milk.”
Schmidt recalled how more than 20 Canadians died in 2008 after deli meats became contaminated with listeria.
“Did they ban cold cuts?” he said. “No. They looked at the operation and said, ‘We need you to do things better,’ and so on. The problem really is the industrialization of our food.”
Asked how long he would remain on a hunger strike, Schmidt said, “Until I see some results.”…”