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.
More research continues to come in from Europe showing the many health benefits of consuming milk fresh from the animal in its raw state. Such information is vigorously opposed here in the U.S. to protect the large, subsidized processed milk industry. Raw milk is so popular in Europe that many countries allow you to buy it from refrigerated vending machines that are stocked fresh each morning. A study from 2014 appeared in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. The study followed 983 infants from rural areas in Austria, Finland, France, Germany, and Switzerland, for the first year of life, covering 37,306 person-weeks. Acknowledging that breast milk is the best way to build a child's immune system in the first year of life, the study looked at cow's milk consumption from both processed milk and fresh raw milk.
The government-sponsored dump of nearly $5,000 of milk, eggs, butter, and cream from Michigan's My Family Co-Op yesterday (July 21, 2014) carried a very clear and powerful political message to all Americans: We control your food and we don’t like you buying your food outside the corporate food system. Every now and then, we are going to remind you of what bad children you are being by taking your food and throwing it in the garbage. In fact, we are going to do more than remind you, we are going to completely humiliate you by preventing you from even feeding it to farm animals and instead forcing it to be disposed of in a landfill or dumpster. If you think I am exaggerating the intent of what is going on here, ask yourself this question: When was the last time you saw government agents seize and condemn food from a place like Foster Farms or Taco Bell or Del Monte or Kellogg’s or Trade Joe’s when their food has been found to contain pathogens, or made people sick? There’s been not even a suggestion that food at My Family Co-Op contained pathogens or made anyone sick.
David Gumpert is reporting that agents from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development pulled over the My Family Co-op's refrigerated truck this week, and placed a seizure order on their private food which was being delivered to food club members. My Family Co-op operates a "herd-share" program that allows private club members to contract with them and share in the ownership of their farm operations to produce and deliver farm-fresh food. These types of private food clubs are popping up all over the country, bypassing the commercial retail distribution of commodity food found in grocery stores. Big Ag, Big Dairy, and others are obviously opposed to such systems that allow farmers to sell directly to consumers, and use government regulations to go after peaceful farm operations trying to produce healthy food for those who want to bypass the commodity processed food market. David Gumpert, however, brings up a good point in explaining that most ag inspectors that try to seize private food really have no police powers, and can be resisted. Some food clubs have successfully resisted some seizures, forcing government officials to get court sanctioned orders that can be enforced by law enforcement officials. They key is to know your rights and not be intimidated, and David Gumpert posted on his blog: SIX WAYS TO PUT A STOP TO GOVERNMENT SEIZURES OF PRIVATELY-OWNED FOOD
A new study published in Sweden shows that children who live on small dairy farms run one-tenth the risk of developing allergies as other children. This study confirms the same results observed among small Amish dairy farms last year, where the drinking of farm-fresh raw milk was shown to be a cure for many allergies. The authors of the study suspect that the development of a healthy gut flora, as a result from living on the farm and being exposed to many different types of bacteria, is a major factor in developing immunity to allergies.
As we have frequently reported here at Health Impact News, the federal war against raw milk is NOT over food safety, but over the economic threat to Big Dairy and their subsidized milk pools that go into processed food. When farmers bypass the system and market a premium product directly to the consumer, such as farm-fresh milk directly from a healthy cow, they are threatening the system. The FDA should have no jurisdiction at all at the state level in trying to regulate raw milk, but as Pete Kennedy writes below, they are influencing the Illinois Department of Public Health to restrict consumer's rights to purchase milk directly from the farm.