Contaminated Milk In Chilliwack

Last modified on January 6th, 2010

So, this is actually a timely story, given my recent efforts to purchase more local food. The British Columbia Centre for Disease Control has recently shut down a local Chilliwack company that produces raw (i.e. unpasteurized) milk due to contamination with faecal matter. I won’t argue whether or not that faecal matter is of concern, since I don’t know the levels that were found or how they relate. The owner of the business is obviously upset with the government interference:

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 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.

At the heart of this issue is whether or not the government should be able to interfere with what people eat or drink. I wanted to open up the discussion to see what people think — what do you think?