BCHA Newsletter Issue 2 Oct 2015

BCHA newsletter imageCome and read our second newsletter, just published – full of news and details about our meetings with the B.C. Government about how to get the law changed (Summary:  It can be done!  We just have to do the necessary work.).   Download this issue in PDF format from:

B.C. Herdshare Association Newsletter – Issue 2 (October 2015)

We are also calling for submissions for our next issue – including classified advertising and news from your community and your herdshare.   Send to contact@bcherdshare.org and include “Newsletter” in the subject line.

Legalization? What is your opinion?

In 1988, a law was passed in B.C. which made all raw milk a “health hazard.”  This law is now Section 2(a) of the Health Hazards Regulation under the Public Health Act.

Despite the fact that

  • individuals may collectively own property, including livestock;
  • individuals may employ others to care for their livestock;
  • products from livestock – meat, milk, offspring, manure, hides, and wool – are the property of the owners;
  • contracts between livestock owners and agister are private, free-enterprise agreements between two parties;
  • if you own the animal, you are not buying milk from that animal;
  • herdshare owners pay GST on their monthly agistment fees, as this is a service, not a product;
  • over-regulation – imposing costs and standards which producers or consumers are unable to meet – is a form of prohibition, creating a black market;
  • fresh milk produced by procedures intended for direct consumption is not the same as unpasteurized milk produced by methods necessitating pasteurization;

…. health authorities are still issuing cease-and-desist orders to the herdshares they find, with little that the herdshare can do to “fight back.” Some herdshares are hesitant to send test samples to a lab due to fear of being reported to health authorities.  Many herdshares operate in isolation, without that support network that is taken for granted in other agricultural sectors, without even knowing about other herdshares in the same community.

Currently, if a health authority finds about a herdshare, they will likely issue a cease-and-desist order to it. Some health authorities operate on a “complaint driven” basis, but anyone can phone or email a environmental health officer and complain that raw milk is being distributed. An example is the complaint filed with the Fraser Health Authority against the Home on the Range cowshare in 2008 – the complaint was filed by the Ministry of Agriculture. In another case, someone saw two herdshare members privately transfer a jar of milk from one of their cars to another in a parking lot of a local farmers’ market – the market itself was reported to the health authority. In another case, a former herdshare member with a grudge reported the herdshare. This is an excerpt from a sample cease-and-desist letter received by a herdshare last summer:

Herdsharing is unofficially legalized in other provinces, where raw milk is not classified as being a health hazard, and in California (see the California Herdshare Association website). Herdsharing is officially legalized in places such as Colorado, where specific laws set out conditions for herdsharing (see the Raw Milk Association of Colorado website).  The issue is being discussed of legalizing it in B.C.

So, let’s get the discussion going, about what you as a herdshare community member want to see for the future:

  • Do you want to see laws changed in order to legalize consumer access to raw milk via herdsharing?
  • If herdsharing were legalized, what do you as members of the “raw milk community” wish to see?
  • What do you think of the requirements placed on raw milk producers in areas such as Washington state where raw milk is officially legalized:  licensing, registration, training, testing standards, or certification?
  • Would it benefit your herdshare to be able to advertise for new members? To promote your product?
  • Do you have concerns about the financial costs? Prohibitory regulation?
  • What would your ideal model be?

Please email your comments to survey@bcherdshare.org and we will post them below anonymously, in order to protect your privacy.

Re-evaluating the “Health Hazard” Classification

In British Columbia, there are laws which effectively ban the distribution of unpasteurized milk, based on the presumption that it is a health hazard.  In a law unique to BC, milk which has not been pasteurized is classified as a health hazard under section 2(a) of the Health Hazards Regulation (the only food for human consumption to be classified as such).  The BC Centre for Disease Control states, “There is a good reason why raw milk (unpasteurized milk) is not permitted for sale in Canada – it is not safe to drink” and “Raw milk is unsanitary and may contain feces, urine, and other environmental contaminants from the source animal and its environment. Heat treatment of milk (pasteurization) kills most bacteria in milk.”

But, should these statements be accepted without question? Or, is it perhaps time to review them?

As for the latter statement, pasteurization does not remove these contaminants if a dairy has allowed them to enter the milk.  And artisan micro-dairies producing farm-fresh, unprocessed milk will never allow any of these to enter the milk to begin with.  The following photos of used milk filters – clean and white vs. brown and dirty – show that “pasteurized” does not necessarily mean “clean,” any more than “raw” automatically means “unclean”:

milk-filters

We must also ask the question when hearing about a raw milk-related illness:  Was the illness truly caused by farm-fresh, unprocessed milk produced via appropriate methods?  Or was it caused by milk produced by methods intended for further commercial pasteurization and processing?

Other countries around the world have shown that farm-fresh milk can be safely produced.   One example is Germany, where two types of this product are freely available:  milk sold directly from the farm and certified Vorzugsmilch (see “The German System” (PDF) for more information).   Farm-fresh milk is also sold throughout England – Hook and Son is one such farm.  And in France and Italy, farmers are known for providing fresh milk in convenient vending machines.

We know from recent international QRMA studies that unpasteurized milk can be a very low risk food (see pages 26-30 of the presentation “Unpasteurized Milk:  Myths and Evidence” given at the BCCDC by Nadine Ijaz).  But despite emerging science showing that not all bacteria are harmful and that many are actually beneficial and necessary for our health and survival (e.g. gut microbiota) — in order to legalize farm-fresh, unprocessed milk in BC, it is first necessary to prove to government that raw milk can be produced with low bacteria counts.  We must prove via testing that it is “low risk.” And agisters around the province are providing this proof in their test results.  To show an example, here are the bacteria counts per ml. that pasteurized milk on grocery store shelves must meet:

post-pasteurized standards

Compare with the test results which BCHA-trained agisters are achieving:

Test results - Jul-Mar

Despite these excellent test results, if regional Health Authorities were to discover the location of these three herdshares, the agisters would immediately receive cease-and-desist orders.  No matter how clean it is, farm-fresh, unprocessed milk is classified as a health hazard under clause 2(a) of the Health Hazards Regulation; causing a health hazard is an offence under clause 15 of the Public Health Act; and under clauses 99(3)(a) and 108(1)(c) of the Act, an offender “is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $3,000,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 36 months, or to both.”

We believe that it is time to open the conversation again regarding the Health Hazards Regulation, in particular Clause 2(a).  Originally signed into law by then-Minister of Health Peter Dueck in 1988, a Freedom of Information Request shows that there was no public consultation, reports, studies, or any other documentation on file to provide evidence supporting the passage of this law:

excerpt

The hundreds of dairy farmers supplying farm-fresh, unprocessed milk to their local communities were not consulted in 1988.  The thousands of consumers of these health-building foods were not consulted in 1988.  Twenty-six years later, we feel that it is time for that dialogue to begin, and BCHA is reaching out to begin this dialogue, to advocate for the interests of the herdshare community of British Columbia which created this organization, and to build bridges of understanding and cooperation with those who can change the laws and the policies.  It will be a long road ahead of us, but our community has been here since fresh-milk dairy farmers settled here as pioneers, and we are not going away.

Michael Schmidt’s B.C. Appeal – Feb 12-13th

Update on Michael Schmidt’s appeal of his contempt of court conviction (see Fraser Health Authority v. Jongerden 2013 BCSC 986):  His appeal was dismissed on February 12th, 2015, by the judge.  The text of the judgement is available online.

Background:  Michael was convicted i 2014 by Justice Wong for helping out a Chilliwack herdshare after the agister first received a cease-and-desist order, which then became a court order to stop “distributing” raw milk, and then a contempt-of-court conviction when herdshare members continued to receive products from the animals they owned.   Michael and B.C. activist Gordon Watson stepped in to help keep the milk flowing to herdshare members, and were both convicted and given a suspended sentence of 3 months imprisonment with a probationary period of 1 year. They were also ordered to pay a significant portion of the Fraser Health Authority’s court costs, estimated to be over $100,000 each.

Meanwhile, the documentary “Milk War” has been released on Youtube.   Learn about the events leading up to Michael’s 2010 acquital in Ontario, before the government appealed and won in the Tetley decision.

You can also watch the “Milk War” trailer here.  For recent news about Michael and reflections on his legal battles, see this this self-interview by Michael on “The Bovine.”

Volunteers Wanted!

volunteersDo you support local, sustainable agriculture; food sovereignty and food security; direct farm-to-consumer commerce; and farm-fresh, unprocessed milk?  Do you believe in the vision of a province-wide organization to serve the herdshare community of B.C.?   Please consider volunteering with the BCHA.

Even if you can only lend a bit of time, that would be great.  We have a list of possible volunteer positions here – but certainly if there are other skills or interests you would like to offer to contribute, please suggest! You can email contact@bcherdshare.org if you have questions, or would like to volunteer.

Mark McAfee’s Talk at UVic

rawmi uvic talk 2About 120 people attended Mark McAfee’s September 10th presentatio at the University of Victoria, both UVic students and members of the community.

The title of Mark’s talk was:  “The New Science of Farm-Fresh, Unprocessed Milk: Does It Still Constitute a Health Hazard?”  To give some background on why this is relevant, in 1988 in BC, the Health Hazard Regulation (now the Health Hazards Regulation) was passed under the Health Act (now the Public Health Act), defining raw milk as being a health hazard:

“Division 1 — Food / Hazardous food”
” 2 The following are prescribed as health hazards:  (a) milk for human consumption that has not been pasteurized at a licensed dairy plant in accordance with the Milk Industry Act;”

The penalties for “Causing a Health Hazard” are severe:

15  A person must not willingly cause a health hazard, or act in a manner that the person knows, or ought to know, will cause a health hazard.99  3) A person who contravenes either of the following commits an offence:  (a) section 15 [causes a health hazard];108  (1) In addition to a penalty imposed under section 107 [alternative penalties], a person who commits an offence listed in
(c) section 99 (3) is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $3 000 000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 36 months, or to both.

What is very interesting about this law – which has shut down herdshares; forced BC dairy farmers to sell their animals and in at least one case, into dire poverty because she no longer has an income from agistment; led to health inspectors threatening farmers with the loss of their farms; and saddled other farmers with tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees, fines, and paying the court costs of the health authorities which charged them, is that the BC government has no documented evidence that this law was ever necessary: no studies, correspondence, reports, briefing notes, or any other proof on file.  This is evidence from a recent FOI request:

Health Hazards Regulation, FOI Request

Mark’s talk addressed the question, “Is it a health hazard?”  He provided plenty of hard data, scientific evidence that it is not.  He detailed the “Grass to Glass” best practices for producing farm-fresh, unprocessed milk; the critical control points which farmers must be aware of, and how these best practices can produce an even cleaner milk than pasteurized.

We hope that some of the people in government and in the health authorities who were invited to this talk attended it, and if they were not able to make it, that they see the video of the talk once it is posted online.  The BCHA will also continue to engage in dialogue with the government and the public health community, in order to find a way forward that enables our farmers, and our communities, to survive and thrive without fear.

Is unprocessed milk a health hazard?  It is sold in over 600 stores and from farms in California, is available again from stores and from farms in Washington State (and regularly brought across the border into BC by shoppers).  There have been no deaths from it in the United States since it began being tracked in 1972, and over 12 million Americans regularly drink it.  Qualitative Risk Management Analysis (QRMA) studies and RAWMI date proves it.  Our answer is “No.”

Many thanks to Dr. Martha McMahon for providing this wonderful facility for this lecture, for inviting the students in her classes, and for inviting Mark into her classroom to address the students as well.  Many thanks as well to all our volunteers, including Jackie, Bijan, Alice, Steve, and the many others who helped make this event possible.

Thanks the Saanich Voice Online for videotaping this event for posting online.

rawmi uvic talk 2

Mark McAfee of RAWMI at UVic September 10th 2014

rawmi uvic talk 2

“The New Science of Farm-Fresh, Unprocessed Milk: Does It Still Constitute a Health Hazard?”

We are pleased to announce that Mark McAfee is giving a free public presentation at UVic on September 10th.  The details are: 

Location: Human and Social Development Building, Room HSD A240
Date & Time: Wednesday, Sept. 10th, 2014 7pm-8:30pm. Doors open at 6:30pm

Description:  In 1988, unpasteurized milk was legally deemed to be a health hazard in British Columbia, a clause currently found under the “Public Health Act, Health Hazards Regulation.”  Potential penalties for anyone distributing it – farmer or consumer –  include fines of up to $3 million dollars or three years in jail, and this policy of prohibition has resulted in a flourishing and expanding “black market.”  In comparison, raw milk is legally available from both farms and retail stores in both Washington State and California, from licensed micro-dairies in Oregon, and from vending machines in several European nations.  Mark McAfee, spokesperson for the Raw Milk Institute in California, poses an alternative point of view on raw milk legalization, a proposal for legalization in BC, for discussion and debate.

The talk will include:

  •  Food safety standards
  •  Food safety protocols and practices on the farm
  •  Testing systems, protocols and results
  •  How to simplify raw milk safety to a very reliable and consistent science!! With data to prove it.
  •  History of raw milk
  •  Nutrition of raw milk
  •  Changes that occur in pasteurization and processing
  •  Data that flows from US and EU raw milk systems and practices

Speaker Biography:
Mark McAfee, spokesperson for the Raw Milk Institute (RAWMI) in California, is the founder and CEO of Organic Pastures Dairy in Fresno, California, which is on their 4th generation family farm and distributes raw dairy products in over 600 stores in California. Mark is internationally recognized as an expert in raw milk safety and production, having headed a team which developed and published the first international raw milk production and safety standards. He has spoken at Rutgers and Stanford University Medical Schools and has been an expert witness in legislative and judicial proceedings across America.

Sponsored by BC Herdshare Association and the University of Victoria.