Ontario’s real raw milk hero

As a child driving past the Adelaide Hunter Hoodless memorial in St. George, Ontario, just north of my Brantford home, I had no idea who she was and why she had so many names.

But more than a century ago, after her youngest son, John, died from drinking contaminated milk as an infant, Hoodless embarked on a campaign to have all milk heat-treated — pasteurized — to kill potentially harmful bacteria, making her one of Canada’s earliest food safety proponents.

Tracey Tyler of the Toronto Star writes that Hoodless grew up on a farm in St. George, near Brantford,and is sometimes described as one of the country’s most effective but least-known social reformers.

After her son’s death in 1889, she devoted herself to educating women in the “domestic sciences” and giving them the institutional backing they needed to protect their families.

Her work led to the formation of Women’s Institutes, home economics programs in schools and the creation of the Macdonald Institute at the University of Guelph.

Toronto passed a bylaw in 1915 requiring all milk sold to be pasteurized and that became mandatory across Ontario in 1938. The Star was a prominent advocate for pasteurization, and remains so today, with the publication of an editorial insisting there is no sound scientific evidence supporting the claim that raw milk improves people’s health, but a mountain of data showing it can be dangerous. It’s especially risky for children, pregnant women and the elderly.