The way to legal raw milk in Ontario?

From Glencolton Farms’ farmshare member Gary Wilson:

Steve Paikin’s The Agenda is a TVO public affairs program which recently dealt with raw milk.

I sent the following as an email to Sandra Gionas, the producer of “The Agenda with Steve Paikin” in response to the program ” Arthur Hill: Getting to a Raw Milk Deal”:

“Hi Sandra:

Although I was unable to watch this program at the time it was broadcast live, I was able to watch it later on your website. I was interested in watching this program because, since the year 2000, I have been drinking unpasteurized, unhomogenized milk from the Glencolton Farm. You may be surprised to learn that, after watching the program, I am largely in agreement with everthing Arthur Hill said. In particular, I am against the legalization of the sale of raw milk in Ontario without clear restrictions and guidelines.

During the program, Steve Paikin asked Arthur Hill why some people out there want to drink raw milk. Perhaps asking Arthur Hill to speculate why some people out there might want to drink raw milk might not be as good as asking some person out there who drinks raw milk why that person chooses to drink a product described by Arthur Hill as inherently unsafe.

Arthur Hill, the University of Guelph, the Dairy Farmers of Ontario and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) are all concerned with food safety. So am I. They are concerned with food safety from the point of view of what things are in food that make it unsafe to eat or drink. So am I. They do not appear, however, to be as concerned about what is not in food that makes it unsafe to eat or drink.

I am in agreement with Arthur Hill that raw milk can be inherently unsafe depending on how it is produced. The current dairy practice for feeding dairy cattle recommended by the University of Guelph and OMAFRA increases the risk of unsafe udder health and creates the risk of exposing milk to the pathogen E. coli O:157 H7 through contamination with cattle feces. The reference for unsafe udder health comes from OMAFRA: “Mastitis Prevention for Dairy Cattle: Environmental Control” and the reference for E. coli O:157 comes from Cornell University: “Simple change in cattle diets could cut E. coli infection”. Thus I am complete agreement with Arthur Hill that raw milk is inherently unsafe when it is produced according to the recommended high production dairy diet of both the university where he is employed and the Ontario government’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. It would be a mistake, however, to conclude that if raw milk produced this way is inherently unsafe that therefore raw milk, regardless of how it is produced, is always inherently unsafe.

Milk at Glencolton Farms is not produced with the above recommended high production diet. In fact, by comparison, the diet for the dairy cattle at Glencolton Farms might be called a low production diet. To determine if this diet produces raw milk that is safe to drink it would be necessary to go to the farm and do some scientific testing. The first and obvious test would be to test the milk to see if it ever contains any pathogen for which milk is pasteurized. Since it is correctly claimed that feces contamination of the milk can lead to the introduction of pathogens into the raw milk, cattle feces from the farm should be tested time and time again over a period of time to see if any pathogen for which milk is pasteurized is ever in the feces. If the pathogens for which raw milk is pasteurized are never in the milk or the cattle feces at Glencolton Farms, how can the raw milk at Glencolton Farms be considered by anyone as inherently unsafe?

If science determines that the production method of raw milk at Glencolton Farms produces raw milk that is safe to drink, studing this production method could lead to the legalization of the sale of raw milk in Ontario with clear restrictions and guidelines.

With respect to what is not in food that makes it unsafe to eat or drink, the best test involves feeding test animals. While nutrient analysis may lead to clues of obvious nutritional deficiencies, the best test is still to feed test animals and to obtain the results of comparison studies. For a comparison of pasteurized milk produced by the dairy industry to the raw milk produced at Glencolton Farms the best animals to feed the milk to would be baby cows. After all, cow’s milk is intended for baby cows. Such a test was conducted at Glencolton Farms in 2010. The results are documented on a website called “The Bovine” and the article is called “A tale of two calves — one was fed on raw milk, the other pasteurized”. Clearly, the reader of this article cannot conclude that a comparison of only two calves being fed either raw or pasteurized milk can result in a scientific conclusion about the biological value of the two different milks being compared. It should, however, for anyone concerned about the biological value of the two types of milk, lead to a similar test of the same two types of milk on a significantly large number of calves. If the results of such a scientific test are basically the same as the test conducted at Glencolton Farms, similar tests could be done with other different types of animals (like cats, for instance) before any testing should be done with people.

Perhaps Arthur Hill might be interested in a study of the results of the agronomic practices with respect to the resulting safety and biological value of the raw milk produced at Glencolton Farms.

Yours sincerely,

Gary Wilson”

It has now been over two weeks since I sent the email and I have not yet received a reply. Yesterday I sent a copy to Arthur Hill and he promptly responded to my email thanking me for my vote of confidence and saying that his “…caution would be that no particular diet will ensure safe milk” and that diet “…is one component of a complex matrix of factors that would need to be addressed.”

It seemed to me that Arthur Hill’s being on “The Agenda with Steve Paikin” provided a starting point for commencing rational discussions on the subject of the legalization of the sale of raw milk in Ontario.

Gary Wilson

In case you missed that interview, here it is again:

1 Comment

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One response to “The way to legal raw milk in Ontario?

  1. william

    Pathogens are always going to bea around. Whether they are in fecies or in the milk or on the utters or your hands. The question is not whether it is present it is a question whether your immune system can handle the amount in and around you?
    Mr. Schmidt is probably exposed to this bacteria all the time. However, what guarantees do you have if customer #1048 is capable of dealing with this pathogen or contamination?
    (Our milk is tested once every two weeks, it has NEVER been tested zero for pathogens nor has it ever had zero traces of feces. We have a grade A liscence and so would Mr. Schmidt.) This is not about how clean we think we are. This is not about feed practices. This is about the health of a collective, not just one or two or a few people. Raw milk is legal to drink in this country. Its not legal to sell someone raw milk handled by someone else and from someone else’s animal.

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