An extended court fight is expected over whether distribution of raw unpasteurized milk should remain illegal in B.C.

Inspectors won’t pursue raw milk farm during court battle

Constitutional challenge now targets provincial government

Health inspectors won’t launch any new crackdown of a controversial Chilliwack dairy farm while its founder pursues a court challenge that aims to legalize consumption of raw milk.Alice Jongerden appeared in B.C. Supreme Court Feb. 18 to try to overturn a March 2010 court order that barred her from producing and packaging unpasteurized dairy products.The court found the previous court action between Jongerden and Fraser Health is concluded and her constitutional challenge should target the provincial government rather than the health authority.Jongerden’s lawyer, Jason Gratl, has now refiled the challenge against the Attorney General, alleging B.C.’s Public Health Act banning raw milk production as a public health hazard violates her constitutional right to liberty and security of the person and that penalties of up to three years jail and fines of $3 million are far too harsh.Fraser Health spokesman Roy Thorpe-Dorward said the authority will take no further enforcement action against the current farm operator until Jongerden’s challenge is ultimately decided in court.”The government’s commitment to back away from aggressive prosecutions is a relief for us,” Jongerden said in a statement.”We now have some breathing room while the courts determine whether Canadians have a right to choose between whole and processed foods.”Jongerden last fall turned over the operation of her dairy farm to an Ontario raw milk advocate in order to avoid contempt-of-court penalties.She intends to resume operations as a cow-sharing co-op to supply her 450 Lower Mainland members with raw milk if she’s successful in her challenge.Farm owners can legally drink the milk of their own cows, so it’s argued a cow share is likewise private consumption and not the illegal sale of raw milk to the public.The farm is currently operating as Our Cows and claims to sell milk-based cosmetics not for human consumption.Advocates claim raw milk is healthier than pasteurized but B.C. chief medical health officer Dr. Perry Kendall has maintained raw milk can be contaminated with bacteria and poses a serious danger of illness.”We’re looking forward to cross examination of the chief medical health officer of the province, who has been vocal in his condemnation of fresh milk,” Gratl said.”We look forward to testing the strength of those convictions.”Gratl said he believes the current freeze on enforcement action goes beyond the Jongerden farm to other cow-shares and under-the-table raw milk sales elsewhere in B.C.