Sheep, goat farmers seek raw milk registration

Proponents argue there are fewer cases of food-borne illness than with pasteurized milk
Ontario Farmer staff (Dec. 5, 2005)

Guelph. A handful of the movers and shakers in the goat and sheep’s milk business met here at One Stone Road to learn more about a proposal to get raw milk registered as a novel food.
James McLaren, a raw food advocate from Ottawa is leading the initiative as a consumer. However, he said, he needs to involve producers “to build a data-base to show that raw milk is safe.” “We’ve been trying (for) years to establish safety,” said Nairn Sittig, the former chair of the Ontario Goat Milk Producers Association, referring to provincially funded milk testing to establish quality standards.
McLaren met with Health Canada last April and has since received a package outlining the requirements for establishing a novel food. It could be approved on the basis of finished product testing or process controls.
McLaren believes that “process controls” would be the best approach, but they will require producer involvement, because they are essentially on-farm practices to ensure hygienic milk production.
McLaren is not working alone. He has the support of Sally Fallon, of the Weston A. Price Foundation. She attended the meeting with Health Canada and said the foundation could likely contribute $10,000 toward laboratory testing for raw milk.
The foundation lobbies for consumers’ access to certified raw milk in the United States as part of its greater mandate of restoring nutrient-dense foods to American’s diets.
Larry Kupecz, the chair of the Ontario Dairy Sheep Association who convened the meeting, stressed that “as farmers and as farm organizations, we can’t be promoting the consumption of raw milk. That’s James’ job,” he said. “What we are doing is addressing a consumer situation.”
And, Kupecz warned that any attempt to get raw milk marketed will meet with bureaucratic resistance. Staff from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs were invited to the meeting, but didn’t attend and withdrew technical support at the last minute.
Kupecz reviewed information regarding raw milk; suggesting that it has built-in bacterial resistance. And he concluded from information published by the Canadian Dairy Commission, that the incidence of food-borne illness from unpasteurized milk is lower than the incidence of food-borne illness from pasteurized milk and other foods - although admitted he didn’t know the populations studied. Milk is one of the very few foods that cannot be marketed raw, noted Kupecz, even though raw meat can also contain dangerous pathogens. Japanese sushi, which contains raw fish, was nearly banned as unsafe until consumers protested they deserved a choice.
Uwe Paschen, a sheep milk producer from the Zurich area said he signed a waiver when he ate raw meat and fish at the Marienbad Restaurant in London.
“I can’t afford to sell you raw milk because of liability issues,” said Garry Claassen, a goat milk producer from Teeswater. “In our judicial system you are innocent until proven guilty. (But) in our food safety system, you are guilty until proven innocent.”
Never the less, Kupecz noted there are a half million litres of raw milk sales in New York State alone. “There is a significant market. If they can figure out how to do it in NewYork State...surely we can too.” Kupecz invited interested parties to contact him to form a task force “to get the job done.”

© Copyright  2005 Ontario Farmer