A longtime rural resident, I use my 60 plus years of life learning to opinionate here and elsewhere on the “interweb” on everything from politics to environmental issues. A believer in reasonable discourse rather than unhelpful attacks I try to give positive input to the blogesphere, so feel free to comment upon rural issues or anything else posted here. But don’t be surprised if you comments get zapped if you are not polite in your replys.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Raw milk or meat?

A few interesting observations can be found in a recent news article about Mr. Schmidt’s recent conviction on contempt of court charges for failing to stop supplying raw milk to his customers.

“Justice Cary Boswell said his ruling had nothing to do with whether or not people have the right to consume raw milk, but rather whether Schmidt knowingly defied the court order to stop selling it.”
Now whilst I agree with the judge that technically Mr. Schmidt was in contempt of court it should more properly be called contempt of both the food regulations and those enforcing them!
A few extracts may put things in perspective……..

“Selling unpasteurized milk is illegal in Canada because health officials say it can carry salmonella, E. coli and Listeria.”
“Schmidt said milk from his animals is regularly tested and that in 14 years no one who has consumed his products have been made sick. He said a recent series of foodborne outbreaks in Canada bolsters the public's desire for natural products.”

Given recent events at Maple Leaf and at a Barrie fast food outlet one has to wonder why selling “unpasturized” cold cuts is not also banned and exactly how effective such “bans” are in controlling pathogens that are all around us and can be introduced at ANY stage of the food chain. It has been clearly stated that these pathogens CANNOT be fully eliminated from our food so it comes down to what are reasonable and prudent actions to take to minimize the risk.

“The judge agreed Monday, noting that local health authorities had the power to test Schmidt's milk to see if was pasteurized or not, but failed to do so.”
They also have the capability to test for the things that they insist are going to be eliminated by pasteurizing!
It is quite reasonable to require some testing of foodstuffs at all levels of production but it should be a level playing field for all products and organizations. One of the reasons that we now have much of our food shipped miles away to be “processed” at huge packing plants is the difficulty for small suppliers to comply with all the regulations and paperwork required by government. One must also wonder if bringing together such large volume of foodstuffs from many suppliers could in fact make it more difficult to control and track problems with such outbreaks.

In short whilst Mr. Schmidt may have not had much luck in fighting the contempt of court charge I believe he has much ammunition on protecting his (and our) right to make informed choices about what we eat and from what sources it comes. If regulators were to require him to have his herd and product tested regularly and / or clearly label the milk with the fact that it is unpasturized and should be treated as such, this would be reasonable and prudent. However for government to dictate to consumers what they can and cannot consume when the product contains less harmful substances than much of the “processed” foods distributed on store shelves is clearly wrong. That Schmidt said milk from his animals is regularly tested and that in 14 years no one who has consumed his products have been made sick is further food for thought. How many of those “other” product suppliers can truly say that their product has that kind of history.

One final note on this, could it be that those who consume nothing but “processed“ foods and who’s kids never get to “play in the dirt” are doing themselves a disservice by not exposing their immune systems to a range of everyday pathogens. Is this why during a given outbreak some folks fall very ill and possibly die, whist others who have consumed the same contaminated food don’t get sick or get very minor symptoms?

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