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Ontario farmer found not guilty of charges related to selling raw milk

NEWMARKET, Ont. -- An Ontario farmer raised a glass of milk in celebration outside court today after being found not guilty of 19 charges related to selling unpasteurized milk.

NEWMARKET, Ont. -- An Ontario farmer raised a glass of milk in celebration outside court today after being found not guilty of 19 charges related to selling unpasteurized milk.

Michael Schmidt, who operates a raw milk co-op, defended himself last year against the charges for dispensing milk straight from the cow.

"I hope that we can move into a dialogue where even more people enjoy raw milk," Schmidt said after the verdict, holding a glass of milk as his supporters cheered.

Justice of the peace Paul Kowarsky said the case was part of a "search for contemporary justice."

While raw milk is legal to drink, it's illegal to sell in Canada, since health officials consider it a health hazard.

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Schmidt said today he never intended to "circumvent the law but to work with the law to provide people with what they need."

"It was never a war but a Shakespearean drama," he said.

The Durham, Ont., farmer argued the charges laid against him under the Health Protection and Promotion Act and the Milk Act are unconstitutional and infringe on his rights and freedoms.

Schmidt operates a 150-cow raw milk co-operative venture, which allows members to own a portion of the cow to acquire raw milk.

"They are fully informed that the milk is not pasteurized," Kowarsky said in his ruling, adding the milk is not marketed or sold for consumption to the general public but only to cow share members.

Kowarsky said his own research showed cow shares exist worldwide.

At trial, Schmidt argued that government officials and food scientists cannot guarantee the safety of any food, and suggested informed consumers should be able to buy raw milk if they so choose.

Food scientists and health experts testified that mandatory pasteurization laws are needed to protect public health.

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Schmidt was charged after an armed raid by about two dozen officers and government officials at his farm in 2006.

Related Topics: AGRICULTURE
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