By: Amber Vesna, HBSc, RA Cert.
Regulatory Affairs Assistant
Could legalizing Raw Milk sales be in the future for Canada?
Historically of course there was only raw milk to drink. Until about the 1770s there was really no option. Then Pasteurization was developed, and gave an option to consumers.
Pasteurization slows the spoilage due to the growth of microbial organisms. This allows for longer shelf life and large scale farming operations. This method is standardized and monitored by various government agencies. In Canada, all milk produced by a processor and intended for consumption must be pasteurized, legally requiring it to be heated to at least 72°C for at least 16 seconds, then cooling it to 4°C to ensure any harmful bacteria are destroyed.
Raw Milk as the name implies is fresh, unpasteurized, and straight from the source (i.e. cow). There may be an increase of health risk as there is a potential for pathogens, and spoilage. However it can be produced hygienically and some health benefits of milk are lost during the pasteurization process.
The legalizing of the sale of raw milk has proven to be a great economical boost in local, rural economies. Since 2009, Vermont has made it legal for a farmer to sell raw (unpasteurized) milk with Act 62, though at an arbitrary limit of 40 gallons/ day. As a result, Vermont farmers and the rural economy has seen a significant boost since this decision. There is discussion of reviewing the bill and perhaps increasing the limit of amount for sale.
The regulatory status in the EU states that raw milk and raw milk products are “legal” and “safe for human consumption”. However European countries are free to (and generally do) add required sanitary regulations and quality testing as mandatory conditions of sale.
What could this mean to Canadians if they follow suit? Pasteurization was made mandatory in 1938 in Ontario, and by Health Canada in 1991, banning the sale of raw milk. Many farmers and consumers that wish to drink raw milk bypass this law by sharing the source of the milk as drinking raw milk is not prohibited. However these types of programs are questionable, and have found themselves under prosecution. In Vermont the farm can see between $4-$8 per gallon for raw milk and only $1.50 for pasteurized. If Canadian farmers saw similar revenue this could be a great economical boost for the industry. Also as it requires direct sale or regional delivery this could increase the regional economy. With the recent changes to food labeling and regulations for healthy foods raw milk may become an accepted and regulated food option.
Canadian Food Inspection System – Dairy Production and Processing Regulations (Fourth Edition) – 2005
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