Public health officials raid Ontario farmer’s van, seize raw milk products

MAPLE, Ont. — An Ontario farmer who has spent years fighting for the right to sell unpasteurized milk says public health officials north of Toronto have raided a van from his farming collective which held raw milk products.

Michael Schmidt says officials seized several samples of raw milk products on Tuesday afternoon from the van which distributes them to people who have a share in the collective.

“That was a raid,” Schmidt said of what took place. “We have to wait and see if they take any further legal action. We definitely are prepared not to back down.”

York Region’s director of health protection said a public health inspector was obstructed while attempting to enter “a food premise” on Tuesday.

After obtaining a search warrant, public health officials were able to enter the premise and conduct an inspection, said Joe Lamarca.

“It’s a raw milk investigation,” he said of the incident.

Schmidt has fought a lengthy legal battle over raw milk products.

Last August, the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear Schmidt’s appeal of an earlier decision which meant his 2011 convictions on 13 charges under the Health Protection and Promotion Act and the Milk Act that saw him fined $9,150 stayed in place.

The Ontario government maintains the unprocessed milk poses a significant risk to public health, but Schmidt insists there’s no evidence anyone has ever fallen ill from his milk, and he and his supporters argue raw milk offers health benefits.

Ontario does not ban the consumption of raw milk and farmers are allowed to drink the milk produced by their own cows.

Earlier court decisions have found that Schmidt’s previous method of allowing consumers to buy an ownership interest in a dairy cow was little more than a way to circumvent the rules.

Schmidt then changed the structure of his business, getting his customers to buy part ownership in the farm, rather than just the cows.

“We think, according to what the judge said, we had set it up properly so people actually had the right to get their own milk,” said Schmidt.

Schmidt said members of the farming collective who were by the van to collect their products began protesting when health officials tried to seize all the raw milk products on the vehicle.

He said the officials then ended up leaving with only some samples.

 

The Canadian Press