Why Michael Schmidt’s Appeal Matters

Ontario farmer and raw milk advocate, Michael Schmidt, with one of his supporters, following a court case in 2011.

We don’t see a lot of this out there, but here’s an apparently independent blogger, who doesn’t appear to be a cowshare member, or all that closely connected or impacted by the case, expressing concern for the fundamental issues at stake in the Michael Schmidt raw milk saga, which so far has mostly been about how Michael has been prosecuted in the absence of any damage, and how his case has gotten an inordinate amount of regulatory attention, given what else is happening in the world these days. From Sofa King Next Level:

“Michael Schmidt is an Ontario farmer who was targeted in 2006 by the Province of Ontario (through the Grey-Bruce Health Unit and the Ministry of Natural Resources) for making unpasteurized milk available to his small buying group of customers who owned shares in his milking herd. We are talking less than 150 customers over a number of years, and less than 30 cows. When the judgement for this case came down in 2010, Michael Schmidt was found not guilty and acquitted of all charges. This should have been the end of the story.

But the province appealed the decision! And won!

Who let the province waste taxpayer money on an appeal like this? Was anyone injured? Was anyone dissatisfied with Michael Schmidt’s milk? Was there any offense whatsoever that would justify taking this action? No, there was not.

Was the spirit of the law being followed when the Province appealed His Worship P. Kowarsky’s judgement? No, it was not….”

And another excerpt:

Has anyone been sick from Michael Schmidt’s milk?

What I find so interesting is that the Province went after Michael Schmidt so aggressively (undercover agents, multiple surveillances) despite the fact that there was not a single consumer complaint. In fact, all of Schmidt’s customers had willingly sought him out, paid him a huge fee to join his cow-share, and then become repeat orderers of his milk. This is a high level of loyalty and repeat business that most companies would envy.

Another thing I find so interesting is that in 2008, Canadian corporation Maple Leaf Foods cut some corners at their meat processing plant which led to an outbreak of Listeriosis which killed 22 people. At no point did the government step in and demand that Maple Leaf Foods cease operations, pay a fine, or do anything at all. The company issued a voluntary recall of their meats that came from the sloppy plant, a recall that was only loosely followed. The company also voluntarily shut down its plant because it could not identify the source of the outbreak – it could have been anywhere in the plant, and there were not enough checks and balances to know.  A lot of mistakes were made, and as a result, 22 Canadians died.

You would think, perhaps, that Maple Leaf Foods president Michael McCain would be persecuted for these mistakes, and that the government would hound him down making him pay for what he had done. However this was not the case. Instead, McCain cleverly got himself on television and issued a very sincere apology where he looked genuinely contrite. That contrition earned him instant forgiveness, and in fact he was named Business Newsmaker of the Year for how well he “handled” killing 22 people, in that the company’s stock dip and then recovery offered investors a stellar return.

The message is clear to other giant food processing companies: A heart-felt apology is worth more to investors and business strategists than money wasted on sanitation and standards any day. Profits before people.

I really don’t have anything personal against Michael McCain, and his apology video (available on Youtube – I will post a link below), while not necessarily moving is at least serious and sobering. However it doesn’t change the fact that the government turned a blind eye to the big corporate Michael, while persecuting the small dairy farmer Michael. It has occurred to me that if the government could have pulled some resources off of the “raw milk beat” and instead gotten more inspectors in the big processing plants, our citizens might have been a lot safer, and a lot less dead….”

More on Sofa King Next Level.


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2 responses to “Why Michael Schmidt’s Appeal Matters

  1. Kevin Mallon

    I think sofa King is absolutely correct:

    “It has occurred to me that if the government could have pulled some resources off of the “raw milk beat” and instead gotten more inspectors in the big processing plants, our citizens might have been a lot safer, and a lot less dead….”

    in other words, what in the name of all that’s holy is the government up to?

    • william

      OMAF has limited resources. They are incapable of monitoring everything that happens in the food industry. The same goes for CFIA.
      The rules are present to help the “masses”. Michael Schmidt’s case seems to be an easy target. Mr. Schmidt sells raw milk to the public willingly. There are several 1000’s of farmers who drink and sell raw milk in the black market. None of those farmers wish to be found or persecuted.
      The main reason for hiding from officers of the law: liability issues.

      The big processors that you state above (Maple Leaf Foods): failed to follow the rules. Hence Maple Leaf Foods becomes liable. Government officials are present to be sure that rules are followed and understood, hence liability is not passed onto the producer (or to the farmer).

      I think one of the problems with Mr. Schmidt is that he milks his cows and sells you raw milk. Traditionally when food passes through someone’s hands the person who handles the product is liable for the safety of that food.

      We know that there is a good chance for Listeria, Salmonella or Q-fever to be present in raw milk. If someone becomes sick due to contamination. Who will be liable for an illness, death or out break?

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