Health authority wins case to shut down raw dairy
Published Thursday, March 18, 2010 4:39PM PDT
B.C.'s highest court has ordered a dairy farm in the Fraser Valley that sells unpasturized dairy to stop packaging or distributing its raw milk products.
The Fraser Health Authority first sought an injunction against Alice Jongerden, owner of the cow-share co-op Home on the Range in Chilliwack, on Feb. 1 -- two months after health authorities handed over cease and desist orders and forced depots to dump bottles of its milk.
The sale of raw milk has been prohibited in Canada since 1991, with health agencies saying it is a known health hazard. Cow-share operations like Jongerden's have sidestepped the law by allowing members to buy into their organization -- making them part owners of the animals. Jongerden distributed her raw dairy products, including cream, yogurt and milk, to members through various depots in Metro Vancouver.
In a written judgment released Thursday, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Miriam Gropper granted the injunction to the health authority. She wrote Jongerden was "willingly causing a health hazard" by distributing the products from her facility.
Gropper said there is no doubt Jongerden breached B.C.'s Public Health Act and its regulations by conducting her business.
She added that because raw milk is presumed to be a known health hazard under provincial regulations, there is no opportunity for the court to make its own distinction regarding any health risks. She suggested Jongerden's next option may be to seek a change in the legislation.
"The remedy for the respondents is to convince the government to change the legislation."
Gropper threw out any comparison to Ontario farmer Michael Schmidt, who recently won a battle upholding the legality of his cow-share operation -- saying the provisions of the Ontario Milk Act are not translatable to the B.C. Public Health Act.
"While the cow-share program undertaken by Mr. Schmidt is the same or similar to that undertaken by Ms. Jongerden…, that is the only similarity to be found."
Jongerden told CTV News she's disappointed in the decision. She says she will continue business as usual until the order is formally processed by the courts.
A spokesperson from Fraser Health said the agency is pleased their request for a permanent injunction was granted, adding that the pasteurization of milk raises milk to temperatures high enough to destroy harmful, disease-causing bacteria.
"The risk of disease from consuming these unpasteurized products is high and can cause serious illness in people, especially young children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems."
Fraser Health said it is reviewing the decision to see if any further action is needed.