Got milk?

By Andree Lau, CBCnews.ca

I hate the taste of milk. Every time my parents made me drink it as a kid, I got a stomachache. They didn't believe me, thinking I was up to childhood hysterics.

Michael Schmidt talks to reporters in July 2009 outside court in Newmarket, Ont. (Colin Perkel/Canadian Press)

I remember my aunt — in trying to coax me to drink my milk — adding Ribena to my glass, turning it pink. It worked for a day.

Then we figured out I was lactose intolerant. These days, I just carry Lactaid.

I'm intrigued by the three-year fight by Ontario dairy farmer Michael Schmidt who produces raw, or unpasteurized, milk from his 150 cows. He then distributes the unprocessed milk to a small group of customers who have purchased "cow shares."

It's not illegal to drink raw milk in Canada, but it is against the law to sell or distribute milk that hasn't been pasteurized. (Raw-milk cheese, on the other hand, is legal in Canada as long as it's aged for at least 60 days.)

In 2006, officials raided Schmidt's farm, seized his milking equipment and slapped him with 19 charges relating to selling unpasteurized milk. On Thursday, he was found not guilty.

Pasteurization is the process of heating a food to kill harmful organisms such as bacteria (Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria), viruses, moulds and yeasts. Canadian health officials warn against drinking raw milk. So why do people do it?

"The rich and sweet taste of unpasteurized milk would blow most people away," Schmidt has said. "I bet that 90 per cent of the people who would have the choice by blind tasting would all go for raw milk because that is the taste of milk and not what you buy on the shelf."

Others argue the natural micro organisms in raw milk aid in digestion. At some of Schmidt's speeches, immigrants have recalled stories of drinking raw milk in their home countries and not having any digestive problems they now experience with pasteurized milk.

But really, Schmidt's fight tested the rights of consumers to choose what they want to eat. While the state can issue rules and warnings, can they really restrict what people consume?

Have you tried raw milk? What do you think about Schmidt's legal battle?