In defense of raw milk: Farmer refutes danger claims
The owner of a British Columbia farm at the centre of an unpasteurized milk warning says their raw dairy products are 100 per cent safe to consume.
The B.C. Centre for Disease Control issued a public health bulletin against Fraser Valley's Home on the Range farm in Chilliwack Tuesday, saying consuming unpasteurized dairy from the facility could be hazardous.
The agency said five out of 15 samples tested in December by its labs tested high for fecal contamination. The products, including raw milk, yogurt, cream, butter and cream cheese, were seized from raw dairy depots in the Fraser Valley and Lower Mainland.
"Once we determined there were high levels of contamination then it becomes an issue of public health and we tell people that they should discard the products," CDC spokesperson Ratinder Harry told ctvbc.ca.
Missing the point?
But Home on the Range owner Alice Jongerden said the health agency has never contacted them with concerns, or gave them the chance to do their own testing.
"They're missing the point. If public health had real concerns about public health they should speak to us directly -- but they never did," she told ctvbc.ca in a telephone interview.
Selling raw milk is illegal in Canada, but raw dairy coops like Home on the Range sidestep the law by allowing members to buy into their organization - making them part owners of the animals.
The coop's 365 shareholders believe that raw milk consumption offers superior health benefits that far outweigh any potential health risks. Its products were distributed through depots until mid-December when the outlets were given cease and desist orders by Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health.
The depot shutdown has changed little for those who believe in the benefits of raw dairy, Jongerden said.
"Customers just have to drive out to the farm to get it. Shareholders are still drinking it and want to be drinking it and even though the CDC has issued warnings. Nothing is going to change. Our shareholders aren't going to change."
None of the farm's customers have been sick from consuming its products, Jongerden said. She received word from a customer several weeks ago saying the milk tasted slightly "off." After one of the farm's 20 Jersey cows tested positive for high somatic cell counts - indicating potential bacteria - it was removed from the premises.
Barbara Schellenberg used her North Vancouver business as a raw milk depot until she was ordered to shut down last month.
In a meeting with Vancouver Coastal Health officials yesterday, Schellenberg said she was given a dire warning about using raw dairy at her restaurant, the Ethical Kitchen.
"They said if I was ever caught with raw milk on the premises again I would have my business license taken away," she told ctvbc.ca. "I think it's ridiculous."
Schellenberg has been a member of the Chilliwack coop for several years, but has never served the products at her restaurant. She grew up on a ranch drinking raw milk. Like Jongerden, she says people will go to great lengths to get unpasteurized dairy.
"I'm still going to get my raw milk, and all my staff will get their raw milk. I think it's frustrating that it comes down to this but I avoid pasteurized milk at all costs. Period."