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Milk-lovers getting a raw deal

Petty bureaucrats trying to rein in cow ownerships

Brian Lewis
The Province

Article from

Canada may be a land of "milk and honey" for most of us -- but if you're an advocate for raw, unpasteurized milk, life isn't always so sweet.

Just ask Alice Jongerden, a 38-year-old mother of five who runs a small dairy farm in Chilliwack along with her husband.

For over a year now, this farm has produced raw milk and related products such as yogurt, butter and cheese on behalf of about 250 shareholders who co-own the animals.

This cow-sharing arrangement is necessary because Canada is the only G8 country that doesn't allow raw milk sales.

Raw milk advocates prefer their milk to contain all the original ingredients as Mother Nature intended -- including beneficial enzymes which pasteurization removes along with bacteria.

Regulators maintain that unpasteurized milk is unsafe because it "may" contain salmonella, E. coli or listeria, but reports of illness are few and far between.

However, even though Jongerden's Home on the Range Raw Milk Dairy doesn't sell its milk publicly, which would be illegal, Alice is now getting harassed by small-minded bureaucrats.

In July she was served with an order by the Fraser Health Authority to "cease and desist" packaging and distributing the farm's raw milk for the co-owners.

Jorgerden says while the order notes that packaging and distributing the milk contravenes the B.C. Health Act, it would only apply if the milk was being retailed.

Not surprisingly, the order is being appealed. Because of that, the FHA isn't commenting and the co-owners must now come to the farm to pick up their milk.

But exactly what is the legal status of raw milk in B.C.? Burnaby-based raw milk advocate Gordon Watson, a self-confessed "old hippie," has done significant research on the issue.

While he has letters from various B.C. officials stating that a cow-sharing ownership scheme for raw milk wouldn't be prosecuted, at best the legislation is ambiguous.

Consequently, last year he filed a petition with B.C. Supreme Court asking that a judge study the issue, then hand down a clear judgment answering the question once and for all. That petition remains before the court.

Meantime, the battle over raw vs. pasteurized milk rages on. A farmer in Ontario was recently found in contempt of court for continuing to distribute raw milk.

Regardless, Watson says a growing number of health-conscious consumers are jumping aboard the raw milk wagon.

"Raw milk is a completely different product," Jongerden adds. "The cows are grass-fed only and do not receive antibiotics or hormones. This makes the animals and their milk healthier. And their milk contains beneficial bacteria to keep us healthy." She admits raw milk has to be produced in a clean environment, and since the cows are not artificially assisted to maximize production, the costs are substantially higher than conventional dairy products.

But surely this is also a consumer choice issue.

While we do need basic food-safety regulations, the law should accommodate local operations that offer a safe, healthy choice.

For those who prefer raw milk, it's not happening.


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