A USDA investigation of Pennsylvania farmer Amos Miller’s meat production practices has taken an ominous turn in recent days, apparently morphing into a national dragnet to collect the food purchase records of thousands of food club members around the country.
For more than a decade, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has had an undeclared war on raw milk cheese, until [last] week, when the FDA finally beat a retreat. At the conclusion of its latest assault against raw milk cheese–a research study of more than 1,600 cheese samples to test for pathogens–the FDA made this remarkable admission: “The data collected by the FDA indicate that the prevalences of Salmonella and pathogenic Shiga toxin- producing E. coli are relatively low and similar to the contamination rates in many other foods.” I added the emphasis, just to highlight the significance of that statement. The FDA has never before gone so far as to suggest that a raw-milk product is as safe as “many other foods.” Instead, the FDA and its buddies at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have gone out of their way to foment fear about raw milk products of any kind, warning people not to consume them under any circumstances.
Could the consumption of processed dairy products be a leading cause of childhood asthma? That is a question researchers in Europe recently looked at, and their results were just published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Significant reduction of risk for developing childhood-onset asthma is related to continuous consumption of high-fat unprocessed cow's milk, according to these European researchers. The longitudinal study looked at 1133 children from birth to age 6 years living in rural areas of 5 European countries: Austria, Finland, Germany, Switzerland, and France. The study was able to demonstrate that "continuous consumption of unprocessed farm milk contributes to protection from childhood-onset asthma." And the good news is that one does NOT have to live on a farm to enjoy these benefits. Drinking the high-fat unprocessed farm milk alone was beneficial.
Yogurt is one of the most recognized cultured foods in North America. Often over-sweetened and generally made with low-quality ingredients, it is one of the few fermented foods easily accessible at any grocery store. But it isn’t all it could be – not by a long shot. Good quality, probiotic-rich yogurt can be cultured fairly simply at home using the best milk available to you. Unprocessed cow’s milk, goat milk, and raw milk of all varieties can be used to make yogurt from thick to thin. It can then be sweetened with raw honey or fresh fruit, making a delicious breakfast or creamy treat.
Are you still eating low-fat or no-fat dairy products? If you are, you probably think you’re doing the right thing for your health. And if you check with virtually any public health agency, they’d wholeheartedly agree. The American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, and American Cancer Society, for instance, all recommend low-fat or no-fat dairy. The US Department of Agriculture, in their nutrition guidelines for Americans, also advises, “Dairy Group choices should be fat-free or low-fat.” So what’s the problem? The advice to eat low-fat foods, including dairy, is antiquated, at least back to the 1970s, when low-fat diets were first recommended. It’s also not scientifically supported, and if you’re choosing low-fat over full-fat, not only are you missing out on taste, flavor and satisfaction, but you’re missing out on valuable benefits to your health – benefits that come from eating full-fat foods.
Federal bills have been introduced that will make it easier to sell raw milk across state borders—but they need our support to succeed. Late last week, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), and a bipartisan coalition of sixteen other lawmakers including Jared Polis (D-CO), have reintroduced two important bills, the Milk Freedom Act and the Interstate Milk Freedom Act. The Milk Freedom Act would prohibit the government from interfering with the interstate traffic of raw milk products. The Interstate Milk Freedom Act would explicitly allow the shipment of raw milk between two states where the sale of raw milk is already legal. While the goals of these bills may seem rather modest, their passage would mean a huge step forward, given the lunacy of the government’s current stance on raw milk.
Now it appears that Barack Obama’s FDA is going after our best domestic artisanal cheeses, also often made from raw milk. What is the stated rationale for this? The FDA and Health Canada issued a joint assessment claiming a higher incidence of listeriosis—the disease caused by the food-borne pathogen listeria—in cheese made from raw milk as compared to cheese made from pasteurized milk. Consider these facts about listeria. Recent evidence from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that, between 2009 and 2011, cheese made from raw milk accounted for one listeria outbreak and fifteen illnesses, whereas cheese from pasteurized milk caused five outbreaks and thirty-six illnesses. Let’s put this in further perspective. The CDC determined that between 1993 and 2006, all raw milk products combined caused 202 hospitalizations and two deaths. If the FDA is truly motivated by food-safety concerns, why not take a more aggressive stance towards Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), since contaminated meat and poultry sicken an estimated one million people and kill at least one thousand each year? If the FDA receives enough messages protesting the path they are clearly on to ban raw milk cheese, they will likely back off for fear of offending Congress, which has to listen to the voters—so please take action on this issue!
Texas lawmakers will have the opportunity to make it easier for consumers to buy raw milk on Thursday (May 7, 2015), when House Bill 91 is scheduled to come up for a vote on the floor of the House. The bill, which was approved by the Public Health Committee, will loosen the current regulations that only allow raw milk to be sold on the farm by allowing dairy farmers to sell raw milk at farmers’ markets and to make delivery arrangements with their customers. “Currently, Texans have to travel to a licensed dairy to buy raw milk,” explained Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance Executive Director Judith McGeary. “This bill reduces costs and hassle for consumers, while allowing farmers a fair opportunity to market their products,” she continued. Texas State Rep. Dan Flynn(R-Canton), the bill’s sponsor, has called it a “free-enterprise” bill. “If you have a legal product, it seems like you should be able to sell it at a farmers’ market,” Flynn told committee members at a hearing on April 21.
In a win for farmers, deliciousness, and just plain common sense, Wyoming’s governor signed a bill this past week which will “stop overregulation of locally produced foods” by making it illegal for the state government to require “licensure, permitting, certification, inspection, packaging, or labeling” when farmers sell food directly to consumers. In practice, this means that farmers markets and small food stands will be able to proceed without the interference of government busybodies. As the bill explains, its purpose “is to allow for the sale and consumption of homemade foods, and to encourage the expansion of agricultural sales by farmers markets, ranches, farms and home based producers.” The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Tyler Lindholm, says it will “take local foods off the black market. It will no longer be illegal to buy a lemon meringue pie from your neighbor or a jar of milk from your local farm.”
Government bans on the sale and distribution of raw milk and raw milk products are enforced in the name of public safety. But many people enjoy the health benefits of milk that has not been pasteurized, and some farms want sell it. Are the health threats from raw milk significant enough to warrant a ban on its sale? Government data and the lack of regulation of other raw foods suggest that they are not.