Raw milk: ‘media coverage far beyond its importance’

Here’s the most important point in a column written by long-time Toronto Globe and Mail medical reporter Andre Picard:

The trial of Ontario raw milk farmer Michael Schmidt has garnered media coverage far beyond its importance.

Oh, and the outcome is largely irrelevant.

It seems somewhat absurd to jail a man for selling a product that clients desperately want and which, on the surface at least, seems harmless. But, hey, it happens to pot dealers every day.

What is not harmless is Mr. Schmidt’s attack on pasteurization and on food-safety regulations more generally.

Under the guise of civil liberties and freedom, he and his supporters have uttered all kinds of nonsense and portrayed themselves as martyrs for pure food. …

Farmer Schmidt and his acolytes can suckle the milk from the teat of a cow, a goat, a cat, or any other lactating mammal to their hearts’ content.

Their rights and freedoms are in no way compromised.

What the law restricts is the commercial sale of raw milk.

Mr. Schmidt tried to circumvent this fact by selling "cow shares" and arguing that his clients were actually proprietors and free to consume raw milk from their own cows.

Whether that little manoeuvre exempts him from the law is up to the courts to decide. But it seems unlikely. After all, bar owners tried this technique to sidestep anti-smoking laws, selling "shares" in their establishment and arguing that patrons were smoking in a private club. Judges saw through the subterfuge. …

Another argument is that meat – which can also contain pathogens – is sold raw, so why not milk? The practical reason for this is obvious. It is easy and efficient to pasteurize milk; it is not practical to cook meat before selling it, but its refrigeration (designed to minimize the growth of bacteria) is mandatory and regulated.