May 30, 2007
Media Release

The Regional Municipality of York obtains an Order to stop distribution of unpasteurized milk in York Region

 
 
NEWMARKET– The Regional Municipality of York, yesterday, served an Order from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to Michael Schmidt of Glencolton Farms, prohibiting him from further selling and distributing unpasteurized milk in York Region.
 
The Court Order was obtained pursuant to section 102(1) of the Ontario Health Protection and Promotion Act.
 
“We have given Mr. Schmidt every opportunity to comply with the law,” said Dr. Karim Kurji, York Region’s Acting Medical Officer of Health and Director of Public Health Programs.  “To safeguard the health of York
Region residents, we have sought the assistance of the Superior Court of Justice to stop Mr. Schmidt from distributing or selling unpasteurized milk.”
 
In December 2006, The Regional Municipality of York, through its local health unit, issued an Order to Durham farmer Michael Schmidt, requiring him to cease the sale and distribution of unpasteurized milk within the jurisdiction of York Region.  Mr. Schmidt did not comply with the December 2006 Order.
 
Since 1938, strict legislation has made it mandatory for all Ontario dairy farmers to sell or distribute only pasteurized milk.  Milk and other milk products that are sold commercially through grocery stores and food markets are safe for consumption.
 
Unpasteurized or “raw” milk may contain disease-producing organisms, including Salmonella, Campbylobacter, Listeria and E.coli 0157:H7.  These bacteria can cause meningitis, encephalitis, septicemia, endocarditis, spontaneous abortion and tissue abscesses.  Certain groups, such as the young, elderly, ill, pregnant women or immunocompromised persons, are at increased risk.
 
“Unpasteurized milk is a public health concern, with the potential to negatively impact the health of residents, both those who drink it and those who do not,” added Dr. Kurji.  “Individuals who consume unpasteurized milk and milk products can unknowingly transmit the bacteria-related illnesses to others, causing serious sickness, and even death.”
 
Bacteria-related infections resulting from raw milk consumption can be passed from person-to-person by hand-to-mouth contact.  The potential for this transmission increases as hygiene practices, such as proper hand-washing, decreases.  One does not have to show signs of illness to be a carrier.
 
Pasteurization is a heating process over time.  Commercially, milk is heated to 72 degrees Celsius for 16 seconds at the dairy processing plant.  This process destroys disease producing organisms, including E.coli 0157:H7.
 
Throughout history, there have been many documented cases of illness due to the consumption of unpasteurized milk and milk products.  The most recent local outbreak occurred in Simcoe County in 2005.  Four cases of E.coli 0157:H7 were directly linked to the consumption of unpasteurized milk.  E.coli 0157:H7 is the same bacteria associated with the waterborne outbreak in Walkerton, Ontario that killed seven people in 2000.
 
If you have consumed unpasteurized milk or milk products and are experiencing severe diarrhea, stomach cramps or abdominal pain, vomiting, fever, weakness and chills, you should seek medical attention immediately. 
 
If you want to report the selling, delivering or distributing of unpasteurized milk and milk products, please contact the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs complaint line at: 1-888-466-2372, ext. 64391.
 
For more information on this or other health-related questions, please contact York Region Health Services
Health Connection toll free at 1-800-361-5653.
 
 
- 30 -
 

Media Contact: Jennifer Mitchell-Emmerson, York Region Health Services
 Phone:  905 830-4444 ext. 4016 or After-hours Cell 905 716-2717
 Email: jennifer.mitchellemmerson@york.ca
 
Media Backgrounder
 
Pasteurized milk
 
Why is milk pasteurized?
The pasteurization of milk was implemented specifically to destroy common pathogens found in raw milk and, secondarily, to give milk a longer shelf life by reducing the number of spoilage-causing organisms.  Even under the strictest conditions, cows naturally carry certain disease-causing bacteria which may be passed to the milk that they produce, including Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria, Tuberculosis and E.coli 0157:H7.  The bacteria do not harm the cow, but humans consuming unpasteurized milk may become infected, leading to serious health concerns such as meningitis, encephalitis, septicemia, endocarditis, spontaneous abortion and tissue abscesses.  Certain groups, such as the young, elderly, ill, pregnant women or those with compromised immune systems, are at increased risk.  Unpasteurized milk is also commonly referred to as raw milk.
 
How does pasteurization make milk safe to drink?
Pasteurization is the process of heating milk for the purpose of destroying disease-producing organisms that cause bacteria-related illnesses.  The minimal pasteurization requirement in Ontario is to heat the milk to 72 degrees Celsius for 16 seconds at a dairy processing plant to destroy disease-producing bacteria.
 
Can raw milk be sold?
All milk sold in Canada for human consumption must be pasteurized.  Milk-related legislation is complex and many agencies are involved.  Since 1938, strict legislation has made it mandatory for all Ontario dairy farmers to sell or distribute only pasteurized milk.  Under the Health Protection and Promotion Act (HPPA), the sale, delivery and distribution of unpasteurized milk and milk products in Ontario is prohibited.  Health Units are responsible for enforcing this Act.  Under the legislation, a Medical Officer of Health, or his or her designate, can seize milk products and issue a “cease and desist” order to stop the sale or distribution of milk products.
 
There are some exceptions to the prohibition of the sale of unpasteurized milk and milk products.  Certain raw milk cheeses are permitted to be sold because harmful bacteria are destroyed during manufacture and aging.  These cheeses must be made according to Health Canada guidelines.  Ontario farmers are allowed to drink raw milk produced by their own goats or cows, and unpasteurized milk distribution is allowed under regulated conditions in other jurisdictions, including some parts of the United States and Europe. Continued raw milk-related outbreaks in these areas, however, are increasing the call for pasteurization legislation. 
 
Have there been recent cases of raw-milk related illness?
The true incidence of food and milk-borne diseases is unknown because people may not relate illness to consuming raw milk, or may not report illness to their physician.  Recent outbreaks in Ontario from unpasteurized milk consumption include one that occurred in Barrie in April 2005.  At least four people became ill with E.coli 0157:H7 disease, though there may have been additional, unreported cases.
 
Can the bacteria from drinking unpasteurized milk be passed on to others?
If someone becomes ill from drinking raw milk, the infection can be passed from person to person by hand-to-mouth contact.  Individuals can also become asymptomatic carriers of disease, passing the disease on to another without showing signs of illness themselves.
 
 
 

Is raw milk more nutritious than pasteurized milk?
Pasteurization destroys disease-causing pathogens while having little effect on the quality of milk and the loss of nutrients.  It does not effect the quality of nutrients present in fluid milk, such as calcium, protein, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid and vitamin A.  About 20 per cent of vitamin C is destroyed during pasteurization, however milk is not a significant source of vitamin C.  Any other loss of nutrients is less than 10 per cent.  Vitamin D, which improves the absorption of calcium, is added to pasteurized milk.  Raw milk does not contain a significant amount of vitamin D.
 
What has been done to prevent the sale and distribution of unpasteurized milk in York Region?
In December 2006, The Regional Municipality of York through its local health unit issued an Order to Michael Schmidt, a Durham farmer, requiring him to cease the sale and distribution of unpasteurized milk in the jurisdiction of York Region.  As Mr. Schmidt did not comply with the December 2006 Order, The Regional Municipality of York recently obtained a Court Order from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice prohibiting Mr.Schmidt from future distribution of unpasteurized milk in York Region.
 
What should I do if I find unpasteurized milk products for sale?
Raw milk is a proven health risk.  Do not purchase or consume unpasteurized milk products.
 
It is illegal to sell, offer to sell, deliver or distribute unpasteurized milk.  Unpasteurized milk sales should be reported to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) complaint line at
1-800-466-2372 extension 64391.
 
For more information on this or any other health-related topic, contact York Region Health Services Health Connection at 1-800-361-5653.
 
- 30 -
 
Media Contact: Jennifer Mitchell-Emmerson, York Region Health Services
 Phone:  905 830-4444, ext. 4016 or After-hours Cell 905 716-2717
 Email: jennifer.mitchellemmerson@york.ca
 
 

Contact Information
 
Back to top