The owner of a popular Ottawa ice cream business says she’s been forced to pull her ice cream tubs from 15 locations across the city after a visit from the dairy police.
The Merry Dairy says it halted its wholesale operations on Thursday following a visit by an officer from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
“The officer informed us that because we weren’t a dairy plant under the Milk Act, we could not sell wholesale, this despite the fact that our custom milk is prepared in a licensed dairy and delivered to us weekly,” the Merry Dairy said on Twitter. “No reason was given for the visit, except to say that someone had informed them.”
Merry Dairy owner Marlene Haley told CTV Morning Live there was no notice of the pending visit from the ministry.
“There was no warning, there was no call ahead inquiring about what we’re doing, it was just they showed up with the documents and I was supposed to sign them in front of them – barely a time to read them,” Haley said. . “If we don’t sign the documents, we could be fined $1,000 a day.”
Under Ontario’s Milk Act, businesses need a dairy plant license to sell wholesale products.
“I’m familiar with the Act but I really thought we fell within it because we receive our dairy from a dairy plant and it’s pasteurized and it comes from the plant, and then we use that mix that’s from a licensed dairy plant and we add our flavors and inclusions and make ice cream with it,” Haley said Friday morning.
“So I wasn’t aware we were not in compliance.”
The Merry Dairy advised its 15 wholesale clients to pull its products from the shelves on Thursday, and staff will pickup the products today. The Merry Dairy can still sell ice cream pints at its location on Fairmont Avenue.
“We know there are some that may say too bad, so sad that’s the law. But we are bewildered as to the purpose of the law and its application, as it seems like the outcomes it creates benefits the big players at the expense of the little ones,” the Merry Dairy said on Twitter.
“Canada’s dairy regime couldn’t be more punitive to small businesses in terms of the interests it serves and how it protects those interests. Tonight, it was us. Who knows who is next and why.”
A spokesperson for Ontario’s Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs says businesses are required to obtain a license to ensure they meet the standards.
“As part of the high food safety standards our province has, businesses that process and distribute milk products, including for wholesale purposes, are required to obtain a license under the Milk Act to ensure they meet appropriate standards,” spokesperson Jack Sullivan told Newstalk 580 CFRA in an email.
“We have been in contact with The Merry Dairy and we are offering our assistance and support in order for them to become a licensed dairy plant, compliant with all healthy and safety standards under the Act, which would allow them to resume wholesale distribution.”
Haley says she will have to look into the steps to become a licensed dairy plant to sell wholesale ice cream, but that may involve building a new facility.
“The wholesale part of our business is really what helps us to go year-round and during the pandemic a lot of small businesses reached out to us because they wanted to offer a variety of products and they want it local,” Haley told CTV Morning Live. “So it does affect us in that we have this great relationship business to business with all independent family-owned businesses as well, they’re not the big grocers.”
Mayor Jim Watson called on Premier Doug Ford and the Ontario government to step in and help small businesses.
“Surely a reasonable compromise can be made to allow them to continue to sell ice cream wholesale,” Watson said on Twitter.
The Merry Dairy says it will still serve ice cream at its Fairmont Avenue location and with the Merry Dairy Trucks, along with offering home delivery and catering.