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Saputo takes Dairy Farmers of New Brunswick to court over ‘contaminated’ milk

A sign at the Saputo plant in Saint John on Feb. 28, 2019.
A sign at the Saputo plant in Saint John on Feb. 28, 2019. Andrew Cromwell/Global News

The relationship between one of Canada’s largest dairy producers and the Dairy Farmers of New Brunswick has turned sour, with Saputo Inc., taking the latter to court in an attempt to receive compensation over a “contaminated milk incident”

The information is contained in a court filing at the Court of Queen’s Bench in Saint John dated Jan. 7, 2019.

Saputo is seeking damages of $252,611 from the association as compensation for the 170,742 litres of milk they were forced to dispose of due to the presence of a microbacteria.

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The Montreal-based dairy producer says that the type of bacteria is not dangerous to those who consume it, but that it would drastically reduce their product’s shelf life.

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They’re also asking the court to force the association to disclose the identity of the farm where the bad milk came from. Saputo alleges in court documents that the association and the New Brunswick Farm Products Commission have refused to disclose where the milk came from.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Steve Michaud, the General Manager of the Dairy Farmers of New Brunswick, said the organization is currently finalizing its statement of defense in regard to the lawsuit.

“We are unable to comment on it at this time,” said Michaud in an email.

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Customers angry after Saputo downsizes milk bags
Customers angry after Saputo downsizes milk bags

Saputo alleges that over the course of two and a half weeks in March 2017, the Dairy Farmers of New Brunswick sold them 85,122 litres of raw milk, which originated from a farm along Route 2, a portion of the Trans-Canada Highway in New Brunswick.

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Saputo says that the bacteria-tainted milk was combined with additional non-contaminated milk and was transformed into finished products. They say the bacteria is not typically able to be detected during intial tests and that it wasn’t until the finished product was prepared that the contamination was discovered.

The dairy producer says they had no choice but to dispose of the product.

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According to Saputo, an investigation was undertaken and it was determined that the contaminated product originated from shipments at the unknown farm.

The lawsuit alleges that the anonymous farmer and the Dairy Farmers of New Brunswick breached a duty of care, a warranty and a contract to provide them with raw milk suitable for their products.

Saputo claims they sought compensation from the Dairy Farmers of New Brunswick but were denied by the association “on the basis that it plays no role in monitoring or addressing raw milk quality issues of tankers or at the farm.”

That is why the dairy producer is seeking the identity of the anonymous farmer, because they do not know who supplied the contaminated milk.