Traditional raw foods under fire; Michael Schmidt in court July 25

From Karen Selick on the CCF’s Justice Report blog:

Re:  Kibbeh Ban (Common Sense, Please) – 5 July 2012 – Here’s a good editorial from the Windsor Star denouncing the local health unit’s ban on a Lebanese dish called “kibbeh”, made with raw ground meat.  Here’s the text of a letter I sent to the Windsor Star:

I agree with the Star’s conclusion that the health unit should respect the culture and traditions of Lebanese people and should therefore reverse the kibbeh ban.  Does the Star also recognize that consuming raw milk is deeply engrained in Canadian culture and tradition?  It’s what everyone was drinking when the first settlers came to Canada in the 1600’s.  Louis Pasteur (for whom pasteurization was named) didn’t even develop his heat-treating process until 1862, and it wasn’t commonly used until decades later.  And what about our ancestors from biblical times, yearning for the land of milk and honey?  That was raw milk they sought, not pasteurized.

A recent survey of dairy farmers showed that 88.7% of farm families still consume milk raw on their farms.Notwithstanding this culture and tradition, the Ontario government has banned the sale and distribution of raw milk.  My client Michael Schmidt will be returning to the Ontario Court of Appeal on July 25 to attempt to challenge this legislation.  Does the Star agree that those who want to drink raw milk should have the freedom to do so?

13 Comments

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13 responses to “Traditional raw foods under fire; Michael Schmidt in court July 25

  1. Margarita Brewer

    …And the Japanese eat raw fish. Or have you not yet tasted a good sashimi?? And the very italian tenderloin carpaccio?? isn´t that raw beef? nothing beats sashimi or carpaccio… Just warn the people about the dangers in the different “raws”; and let them go on with their traditions and tastes.

  2. Is anyone organizing any action to support Michael’s upcoming court date? Margo?

    Not that a judge should be influenced by such things, but it is a media opportunity.

  3. John

    Karen. Surely it is hardly surprising that most dairy farm families consume their own farm milk without pasteurization. These individuals are heavily and continuously exposed to the microflora of their livestock and any zoonotic bacteria in milk are likely of little consequence. For them, there appears to be little risk to their health from drinking such milk, so why take the time to pasteurize it? Is this a ‘culture’? Or just common sense. On the other hand, non-farm families who are lacking in similar exposure but become exposed through contact with animals or unpasteurized milk can, and do, show potentially adverse health reactions. Sadly, it is often the younger family members (with the most naive immune systems) that are the sentinels in these cases. For me, a major question is how to safely introduce raw milk for those (mainly infants) who lack the relevant ‘vaccination’ against the potentially harmful bacteria that might be present?
    Sorry to be nit-picky, but I believe Canadians do have the freedom to consume raw milk, they just need to rearrange their lives to qualify for the dairy farm family exemption. I think there could be workable options to accomplish this within the current legislative framework (although I think the Court Justices in the Schmidt case were farthest along in this line of thinking). Mr Schmidt didn’t pick the right one (the devil is in the details). Move on. Look at all the legalities and try another?

    • Gordon S Watson

      John, I’d greatly appreciate if you can point me to the section of the statute, or regulation, which spells-out the “dairy farm family exemption” to which you refer. I haven’t read all the laws of Canada, but my guess is ; the closest you’ll come is the Food Act RS Quebec. Cheeses made from raw milk aged less than 60 days, are perfectly legal in La Belle Province, as long as the dairy from which the milk comes, meets the standards

      After that, in weight at law ; are the 2 letters of Comfort which I obtained … policy statements on official stationery from the Minister of Agriculture and also, the Director of Food Safety in British Columbia, that the Milk Industry Act RSBC does not apply to a cowshare. Despite the non-sense the (so-called ) Health Authorities have put us through, here, they’re still the last word on the subject

      Defendants don’t get to pick the judge they like … in the real world = just the opposite. The Cult of the Black Robe would like all the little lemmings to believe that it’s just ‘the luck of the draw’, as far as the “Rota’ of judges goes. Be assured : it isn’t. Judges are assigned to certain cases in order that the Powers behind the Scenes, get the outcome they want
      what does bode well for Michael Schmidt’s ordeal, is, that the higher you go up the ladder in Court, the more intelligent the judges seem to be about personal freedom

      the flurry of interest in the media – about the Stalin-ist food supply systems being ditched so Canada can join the TransPacific Partnership – will cast his case in a very different light, than the way it was seen back in 2006, when the SWAT team showed up at his farm

    • Peter

      I believe expert testimony in Michael’s trial spoke of the fact that no amount exposure to e-coli 0157-H7 (not sure I got those numbers right), not even for members of farm families, would give people an advantage.
      That much of the population has been consuming sterile (lack of exposure to bacteria, so to speak) food for so long I believe has created a bit of a chicken/egg situation. Some would argue that an increase in exposure to bacteria might help build/strengthen the immune system. The risk is that, in the process, one might experience a more severe illness. There is a risk. Who is decide what the acceptable risk/reward ratio is?
      As for your comments about legal structures, I couldn’t agree more that there are workable options to accomplish the purchase of milk. I like what you said “The devil is in the details”.

      • John

        Peter. With apologies to Forest Gump, but on dairy farms ‘$#!* happens’ and it’s hard to avoid ingesting some. Given the pathogens we know about, cows should make farmers sick; but they don’t. If your cows don’t make you sick, drinking their relatively uncontaminated milk shouldn’t either. I’m not sure if anyone knows why, but ‘living on a livestock farm’ also seems to have a fairly strong health benefit. Some like to attribute this to drinking fresh, unpasteurized milk, but I do not believe this is as well established (despite the large epidemiologic studies in Western Europe). I’m at a loss, myself, although it is likely due to a multitude of lifestyle factors.
        I must admit that I don’t share your notion that we lack exposure to bacteria, or maybe it is my poor hygiene. We have a nice dishwasher, but it doesn’t sterilize the contents, I eat salads, I pour pasteurized (not sterile!) milk on my cereal, I eat sandwiches with my fingers, this keyboard is a bacterial heaven, and so on. So, as above, living like this should make me sick, but generally I don’t suffer. So, happily, I think that I, and most people, have responsive immune systems (continuously responding to familiar challenges). Nevertheless, a novel exposure to a powerful pathogen like live E coli 0157 will be problematic for many, especially anyone who is immunocompromised. As far as I know, there is an 0157 vaccine for cattle (Canadian, actually), but not for humans (a bit of a guess, this). So, most humans are ill-prepared for their encounter with 0157 and are best advised to avoid these. Dairy farmers, veterinarians etc have no choice but to be exposed, and one must assume, then develop the appropriate immune responses.

    • There is no “farm family exemption” in the legislation, despite Justice Tetley’s repeated reference to such a thing. Consumption of raw milk is clearly legal if you happen to own some. Sale, distribution and delivery of raw milk are illegal. In my view, based on Justice Tetley’s interpretation of “distribution”, a farmer could be charged for distributing raw milk to his/her spouse and children if the recipients of the milk don’t own the cow. This doesn’t happen because (a) we don’t have enough bureaucrats to station themselves at every farm collecting the evidence, and (b) there would probably be some political fallout if farmers started getting charged.

  4. Peter: Susceptibility to food poisoning varies according to the dose you get and your own gut bacteria’s ability to fight it off. Nobody is completely immune to any of these nasty bugs if they get a big enough dose.
    The experts at MIchael’s trial led the judge to think that pasteurization kills e.coli O157:H7, which is true enough. What they DIDN’T say, because the research had not yet been done at that time, is that the shiga toxin released by O157:H7 is not inactivated by pasteurization, even if the bacteria themselves are killed. So people can be sickened by that toxin even if the milk they drink is pasteurized. We will be seeking to introduce this fresh evidence to the Court of Appeal if they grant us leave to appeal.

    However, regardless of all this, the main issue is still: Who owns your body? Who decides what risks you can take with your own person? Do you belong to yourself, or to the state?

    Unfortunately, we know what the state’s answer is: we all belong to the state.

    • mike

      Is there any standing for a person that WISHES to CHOOSE to drink raw milk, but which Tetley nicely clarified is impossible save for the farmer, to bring a constitutional challenge upon the court. I understand why Michael is fighting but could we chip away from the personal choice side as well? Discrimination? Freedom ? There must be some way to reverse engineer Tetley’s creative legislative logic ( for which I am sure he is well paid ) and fire it back on the court with a personal challenge from the end “consumer” ??

      • Mike: We will be making this argument on behalf of consumers at the Ontario Court of Appeal, but only in a limited way. People can’t just show up in the middle of a case and ask to be heard by the court. The appeal court has to make its decisions based on the evidence that was called at trial. There was very little consumer-based evidence at trial, unfortunately. Justice Tetley allowed us to put in a smidgen of fresh evidence, but for some inexplicable reason he only allowed in half of what we asked him for. No matter what happens in Michael’s case, there are likely to be future prosecutions, and consumers need to start preparing themselves to get involved in those.

  5. Andrew

    Come from Poland here to Canada and I am very suprised that fresh raw milk is ban. As far I remember my gradparends and and everyone I know and Polish people drinking fresh raw milk and no one get sick or be hospitalized. This is nonsens, only what I see is the big corporations want to make money and pay $$$$ to keep unhealthy milk on Canadian shelf’s. All my life I was drinking a freash raw milk just from the cow and today I’m 50 years old and never, never ever got sick. Go back to Poland every year for a visit and I enjoyed my fresh raw milk just from the cow minutes after. Poor Canadian people, they do not know what is good and healthy for them.

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