Michael Schmidt operates a 150-cow raw milk co-operative venture in Durham, Ont. ((Colin Perkel/Canadian Press))

An Ontario farmer who operates a raw milk co-op was found not guilty Thursday of 19 charges related to selling unpasteurized milk.

Michael Schmidt, from Durham, Ont., defended himself in 2009 against the charges for dispensing milk straight from the cow.

While raw milk is legal to drink, it's illegal to sell in Canada.

Schmidt's legal battles sparked a heated debate over the safety of raw milk. Advocates have extolled its flavour and health benefits, while health officials and the province's milk marketing board, the Dairy Farmers of Ontario, have argued raw milk isn't fit for widespread distribution.

The 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 a cow to acquire raw milk. He argues that he sells milking and distribution services, not the milk itself.

At trial in Newmarket, Ont., earlier in the week, 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.

Schmidt has stood by his actions since health officials carried out an armed raid of his farm in November 2006 and seized his milking equipment.

"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."

A private member's resolution to create an all-party task force to examine the issues surrounding raw milk was debated but not passed in the Ontario legislature on Dec. 7.