Merry Dairy says to close wholesale operations

“I know the milk law, but I thought we were compliant.”

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Hintonburg’s The Merry Dairy has faced an ice cream crackdown.

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After an officer from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs visited Thursday to enforce the province’s Milk Act, the company had to immediately suspend sales operations wholesale distribution of its popular ice cream to more than a dozen Ottawa retailers.

“We are losing a revenue stream, and it was a good stream,” Merry Dairy owner Marlene Haley said on Friday.

“But the disappointment was in the urgency, as in ‘From today you must stop’… The suddenness and extreme measure seem to be out of proportion to what we were doing.”

Haley was expected to spend Friday afternoon loading a cooler into her van with dozens of pints of ice cream scavenged from stores from New Edinburgh to Kanata. If she hadn’t complied, her business would have been subject to fines of $2,000 a day, according to the milk law.

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Although Haley’s business is inspected by municipal food safety inspectors, it is not a licensed dairy plant, as required by the Milk Wholesalers Act. The provincial officer apparently visited the Merry Dairy after being told the business was selling wholesale.

As part of our province’s high food safety standards, companies that process and distribute dairy products, including for wholesale purposes, are required to be licensed under the Milk Act to ensure they meet the appropriate standards,” said Jack Sullivan, OMAFRA’s Director of Issues. , media relations and strategy, said in a written statement:

Haley said the Merry Dairy receives its custom mix from a licensed dairy each week, and then adds to the mix to make its ice cream. He is authorized to sell his ice cream in his store and from his ice cream trucks.

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“I know the milk law, but I thought we were compliant,” she said.

Haley tweeted the ministry’s action on Thursday night, prompting Ottawa politicians to rally behind her company.

“Certainly a reasonable compromise can be found to allow them to continue selling ice cream,” Mayor Jim Watson tweeted on Friday. He asked Premier Doug Ford to help the Merry Dairy. Liberal MP Yasir Naqvi and NDP MP Joel Harden, who both represent Ottawa Centre, also tweeted their support for the company.

The Merry Dairy only started wholesale after retailers contacted it during the pandemic, saying they wanted to stock its ice cream, Haley said.

“Small businesses wanted to diversify. They were adding new local products,” she said. “Customers were really happy. People want local. They love the idea of ​​knowing where the ice cream comes from.

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“We’ve responded to that need during COVID,” Haley said. “We would never have grown our wholesale business so quickly unless there was a need during the pandemic.

Haley said it’s too early to tell how the loss of wholesale revenue will affect her business. That income “certainly keeps an extra person employed, and it allows us to stay open in the winter and the slower months,” she said.

Haley said she had to sign a form admitting that Merry Dairy did not comply with the milk law.

“We know some may say, ‘Too bad, so sad, that’s the law,'” she tweeted. “But we are confused about the purpose of the law and its application, because it seems that the results it creates benefits [sic] the big ones at the expense of the small ones.

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“Canada’s dairy regime couldn’t be more punitive on small business in terms of the interests it serves and how it protects those interests,” Haley tweeted.

In an interview, Haley said the Milk Act should be changed “to recognize the times”, in which small businesses like his can be successful local wholesalers.

Sullivan said the ministry was offering The Merry Dairy”assistance and support to become a licensed dairy plant, meeting all health and safety standards under the Act, which would enable them to resume wholesale distribution.

Haley said the provincial officer gave her written documents about becoming a licensed dairy plant. However, the Merry Dairy is housed in a 100-year-old building and becoming a factory would likely be very expensive, Haley said. A fresh install might be needed, she tweeted.

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Another popular Ottawa ice cream company, Pascale’s All-Natural Ice Cream, has come under similar provincial scrutiny and enforcement in recent years.

According to a July 2021 article in Edible Ottawa magazine, Pascale’s, which takes its name from its owner, Pascale Berthiaume, sold high-end ice cream to customers of its Gladstone Avenue store and wholesale customers, including including Ottawa restaurants. But in March 2019, the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs shut down his business.

Berthiaume, who could not be reached for comment, then resumed selling her ice cream, but through other channels. According to the company’s website, it closed its takeout window at the end of 2020. Now, Pascale’s ice cream is available at pop-up events, through online sales and in multiple stores. from Ottawa.

In response to the Merry Dairy situation, Berthiaume tweeted: “Same story, three years later!!! Things have to change.

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