B.C. raw dairy farmer found guilty of contempt
Published Friday, December 3, 2010 8:54PM PST
A farmer in B.C.'s Fraser Valley has been found guilty of contempt for selling unpasteurized milk products.
The Fraser Health Authority obtained a permanent injunction against Home on the Range Farms owner Alice Jongerden in March, ordering her to stop packaging and distributing raw milk for the members of her Chilliwack cow-share operation. Jongerden distributed her raw dairy products, including cream, yogurt and milk, to members through various depots in Metro Vancouver.
Health officials pressed the matter in July, saying Jongerden was still packaging the products for her customers but sidestepping the order by labelling the product "not for human consumption."
In a B.C. Supreme Court decision, Justice Nathan Smith said Jongerden flouted health regulations and was aware that some of her cow share members would drink the raw milk.
"The notice she posted on her refrigerators in fact invites them to use the product ‘as you please,' he wrote.
"To authorize recipients of a product to continue to use it as they see fit when there is a history of that product being used in a certain (now prohibited) manner is equivalent to knowing and intending that usage will continue."
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Jongerden has always maintained she wasn't breaking any laws in her cow share because members own a stake in the animals, meaning they already own the milk – and she isn't selling it to them. The milk was never sold to the general public.
"I disagree with the injunction because the human consumption aspect shouldn't have been part of it," she told ctvbc.ca in a telephone interview Friday. "It's private property and what people do with it is their own business."
Raw dairy crusader Michael Schmidt recently won a similar court battle in Ontario, but B.C. authorities say the case isn't applicable because raw milk is deemed to be a public health hazard here under the provincial Public Health Act.
Schmidt recently moved to B.C. to run Home on the Range while it undergoes its legal proceedings. He has renamed it ‘Our Cows.'
Justice Smith said Jongerden won't be given a punishment because she no longer operates the farm, and one won't be pursued as long as this remains the case.
Jongerden told ctvbc.ca that she's relieved she won't have to pay a fine, but the injunction has put her out of a job, and her livelihood.
"I'm just curious what the next step is," she said. "Raw milk isn't going anywhere. It's just getting bigger."
The sale of raw milk has been prohibited in Canada since 1991, with health agencies saying it is a known health hazard.
In the United States, where 29 states allow the sale of raw milk, scientists say the liquid is a serious health risk. Of 153 milk-related health outbreaks in the U.S. from 1990 to 2003, 50 were attributed to raw dairy -- as were 1140 sicknesses.
Canada is the only G8 country where the sale of raw milk is illegal.