Expert Panel to Debate Raw Milk Safety
April 17, 2014 - News Release
The controversial topic of whether raw milk should be sold legally in Canada will be the focus of a day-long panel at the University of Guelph this month.
The Science to Policy Symposium, organized by U of G’s Food Science department, will bring together food scientists, policy experts, raw milk proponents and industry representatives April 22. The panel will discuss whether raw milk, which cannot now be sold in Canada, should be made available for sale.
Panellists will include experts from U of G, the Dairy Farmers of Canada, the Centre for Public Health Research, Health Canada and American universities. Among proponents of raw milk at the event will be farmer Michael Schmidt, who is in court proceedings involving the sale of raw milk.
Art Hill, chair of the Food Science department and symposium organizer, said the panel will discuss issues beyond the safety of raw milk.
“This panel is looking at food safety and security, and examining current policies relating to raw and pasteurized milk as a case study,” Hill said.
“Policy-makers have to make very difficult decisions when it comes to regulating products. There are a number of political, social and economic issues they will have to consider.”
Farmers and their families can consume raw milk, but its sale is still illegal.
“There are questions relating to microbial issues in milk,” said Hill. “In my view, the science says that raw milk is unsafe, and the ban on the sale of raw milk should continue.”
Sylvain Charlebois, College of Business and Economics, has studied food production economics and will speak during the event.
He favours allowing the sale of raw milk.
“I think it should be made available, but I‘m a French Canadian who drank unpasteurized milk as a child, so I’m biased,” he said.
“However, we need to make sure consumers are well aware of the risks and give science a voice.”
Charlebois, a board member of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, said safety concerns about raw milk are greater for elderly consumers.
“Since our population is getting older, and more consumers likely have compromised immune systems, it’s important to understand the health risks related to raw milk.”
He believes consumers should be able to make their own decisions about what they consume.
“The power of choice is inherent to our democratic values. Raw milk advocates are clearly gaining allies in some areas while health concerns remain. For consumers to make the right choice, sharing the science is as critical as educating them on food safety.”
The symposium will take place in the U of G Arboretum Centre April 22, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:40 p.m. To register and for information, visit the Science to Policy Symposium website.
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