Sunday, November 27, 2011

Ontario dairy farmer fined $9,150 for selling raw milk

Evidently it's a big crime to sell raw milk, it's right up there will dealing crack and heroin. Meet Michael Schmidt: he's a dairy farmer and "raw milk crusader" from southern Ontario who was just hit with a $9,150 fine for distributing raw, unpasteurized milk.


Schmidt was acquitted in January 2010 of 19 charges under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, which makes it illegal to sell or distribute raw, unpasteurized milk in Canada.
The judge rejected Schmidt's argument that he is legally allowed to distribute raw milk to members of his so-called cow-share program, in which people "own" shares of his dairy herd.
So what's the big deal, really? Is raw milk really that dangerous? Are these raw milk people crazy?

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) raw milk can contain various bacteria, parasites, and viruses which can make you sick or even kill you. Milk can become contaminated in a variety of ways, everything from cows that have diseases to cow feces coming into contact with the milk. The CDC states that the only way to essentially sterilize the milk and minimize these risks is through pasteurization, and without that, you're opening yourself up to enormous health risks.

So how about the other side of the debate? We took a look at some pro-raw-milk sources to see what all the excitement was about, and why people like Mr. Schmidt are willing to break the law for such a cause.

Raw milk proponents argue that raw milk is chock full of nutritional ingredients and offers many health benefits for those who drink it. We read that in the not so distant past, raw milk from cows was actually used as a medicine to treat and in some cases cure chronic diseases. It contains enough nutrition, the proponents argue, that one could survive purely off the milk, as it contains all of the essential proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, enzymes that one would need, and even some good bacteria to help with the digestive system. Question: does pasteurized milk not contain any of these benefits?

This particular story here with the farmer getting fined comes from Ontario, but The U.S. also has its laws regarding the sale of raw milk. However, judging from the raw milk legal status map below from the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, it appears that many areas in the states are quite liberal about its distribution:

So who's to believe, the proponents or the CDC? The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle. Sure, raw milk without anything done to it may have a little more nutrients in it and some additional health benefits, but that's assuming that you're not also getting any bad bacteria or viruses along with it. I personally doubt the benefits of raw milk outweigh the possible risks associated with it, but as long as the buyer is aware that he is purchasing raw milk and that's the decision he chooses to make, I don't see why we should stop him. We let people buy cigarettes all day long knowing full well it leads to cancer. And there's definitely no health benefits to smoking. So what's the big deal if a small group of people (the CDC says it makes up roughly 1% of total milk consumption) think there's health benefits to raw milk and prefer it over the pasteurized? People should have the freedom to make their own purchasing and living decisions, even if they are judged to be bad decisions by the rest of us.

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