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Ontario appeals acquittal of controversial dairyman Add to ...

The Ontario government is appealing the acquittal of raw-milk producer Michael Schmidt, a move that signals the battle for the legal trade of raw milk in the province is far from over.

Three weeks ago, a justice of the peace in Newmarket, Ont., acquitted the controversial dairyman from 19 charges related to public health and milk marketing on the basis that Mr. Schmidt's cow-share program, which provides raw milk to consumers who are "part owners" of the bovines, did not violate Ontario laws.

The Ministry of the Attorney General has now filed an appeal on 17 of the 19 charges, arguing that Justice of the Peace Paul Kowarsky did not consider all the evidence and that some people might have fallen ill after consuming raw milk without reporting it.

In addition, the Grey Bruce County Health Unit is filing a separate appeal of the charges not covered by the ministry's action.

The Crown is disputing Mr. Kowarsky's verdict that unpasteurized milk poses no public-health danger, pointing to evidence from Ontario's expert witness who testified that many cases of milk-borne illness go unreported and undiagnosed.

The expert witness also said that although consumers of raw milk could be symptom-free, they are still able to transmit infections to the greater public - a point the Crown argues Justice Kowarsky did not consider.

Mr. Schmidt's trial began in June of 2009 after a "raid" by the Ministry of Natural Resources on his Durham, Ont., Glencolton Farms in November of 2006. The farmer faced charges of operating a plant and distributing milk without a license and selling and distributing unpasteurized milk.

Mr. Schmidt and his lawyer, Karen Selick of the Canadian Constitution Foundation, have scheduled a press conference Tuesday to respond to the appeals.

The farmer has been a crusader in the global food movement, advocating for the right to consume unpasteurized dairy products despite government regulations. It is not illegal in Ontario to consume raw milk, but it is against the law to distribute it.

In a press release yesterday, Mr. Schmidt vowed to defend himself.

"This is not about milk," he said. "This is about the respect for the individual's right to make choices without government interference. This is now the next stage in a serious battle."

With a report from Karen Howlett

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