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Dairy Farmer Challenges Ban on Raw Milk

VANCOUVER, B.C. (CN) - A dairy farmer challenged British Columbia's prohibition of the sale and distribution of unpasteurized and unhomogenized milk. Alice Jongerden says her "cowshare" business called Home On The Range has 400 members. But the province's March 2010 law makes distribution of raw milk punishable by up to 3 years in prison and a $3 million fine.

Jongerden says Home On The Range and its 400 members sold raw milk from 2006 to 2010. "Fresh milk has high nutritional value," Jongerden says. "Fresh milk contains vitamins, minerals, nutrients, beneficial enzymes, natural immune system boosters, and healthy fats and proteins. Fresh milk also has beneficial health effects that have yet to be fully understood by scientists. Processing milk by pasteurization and homogenization significantly reduces the nutritional value of milk."

But a court order in March 2010 prohibited her from packaging and distributing "fresh milk" based on the province's Public Health Act.

After the order was handed down, Jongerden says, she kept distributing the milk, with labels stating that the product was "not for human consumption."

She was found in contempt of the order, but was not penalized.

If the regulation is struck down, Jongerden intends to resume the cowshare's operations.

Jongerden adds that fresh milk is available in at least 20 states and nearly all of the European Union. Health risks associated with processed milk include allergies, asthma and lactose intolerance, she says, and "as is the case with processed milk, risks associated with fresh milk can demonstrably be managed with appropriate regulation and provision of information to consumers. An outright prohibition is unnecessary."

Jongerden wants the Public Health Act Transitional Regulation prohibiting sale of raw milk declared unconstitutional because it "deprives the plaintiff, contrary to the principles of fundamental justice, of the right to security of the person and the right to liberty."

She is represented by Jason Gratl of Vancouver, B.C.

Raw milk is a contentious subject in the United States as well. Many people consider it more nutritional than pasteurized milk, but one organic dairy farmer in Vermont told Courthouse News that he has stopped selling it, as the cost of defending a single claim of raw milk-originated illness could put him out of business.

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