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I received this email this weekend in response to an interview I gave recently about raw milk to “Food Manufacturing” online:

Farm fresh? All the rage? natural food craze? certified organic is a buzzword? You make the lifestyle of eating pure, unpesticide treated, unindustrialized, unprocessed food seem like a generational fad like acid washed denim or cabbage patch dolls.  Those use words like you in your ridiculous article are afraid of the truth and just don’t want to know about it. So keep eating your corn feed beef, your pesticide-salads and your oreo cookies, you industrial eaters because you seem to not care about your bodies or your kids health or the future of the earth.

Actually, I get more than a few emails like this.  Most do a bit better at spelling and punctuation, but nearly all are from raw milk proponents, producers, or consumers (although there are a few from the anti-S. 510 cabal).  Some, but not all, have a level of passion that borders on violence.  Perhaps not directed at me, but generally in the “do not tread on me”–”tea party” shouting that we have been subjected to over the last year.

Frankly, I was perplexed at the “yell fest” that passed for discussion of whether we should expand health care to the 40 million of our fellow citizens without health insurance.  I am shocked at how we scream at each other via email or blog comments about raw milk or honest differences about how food safety legislation should be modeled.  It is like screaming at and belittling each other at the dinner table–albeit, a very large table.

What is with all this anger over food?  I mean, honestly, it seems like there are bigger fish to fry.  What about the wars?  Global warming?  Energy policy?

But, folks are angry about their view of food–especially the proponents of raw milk (affectionately, “raw milkies”) and the anti-S. 510 folks (affectionately, “organic tea baggers”).  Both groups view themselves as victims of big government and big business bent on reducing them to servitude or extinction.  They cannot see that perhaps, just perhaps, people who see the dangers of raw milk or the value of S. 510, might simply have an honest disagreement with those that see raw milk as the nectar of the gods or S. 510 as more than a method of lining the pockets of Monsanto.  But, hey, that is just me.

So, do the yelling, threats and belittling of the anti raw milk/pro S. 510 crowd actually work?  Are some convinced that those that yell the loudest have the best arguments?  Or, do some simply shy away from their positions after being the target of a nasty blog post or scathing email or comment?  I think some do.  I know I have been tempted to simply focus on other pressing issues surrounding food safety–there are many–and let folks guzzle raw milk to their heart’s content and let S. 510 die a lingering death.

But, that is not my style.  Even as a child when told to do A I usually did B.  When the raw milk party calls me a tool of big dairy or an ambulance chaser, I come back with reasoned pros and cons of raw milk consumption, videos of raw milk consumers sickened, and a website–Real Raw Milk Facts–dedicated to having a reasoned discussion about raw milk.  I am also beginning to work on a raw milk retail sampling project to test its safety.

As for S. 510, the nastier the emails from small producers who want little or no food safety regulation, the more money I donate to political campaigns, the more trips I take to DC, and the more often I fund victim visits to their favorite senator.

And, to do the above, I hardly raise my voice.  Well, once in awhile I do.

© Food Safety News
  • http://bit.ly/chE6zp jeffronald

    Health care (transformation) is one of the best issues this current administration has done thus far. With this change individuals will have the opportunity to seek professional and quality health care services. Who would want to return to the days of the horse and buggy, b/w tv sets, manual typewriters, pac man, you get the point? That’s about how old the health care system was in the USA. Each day the news is filled with social tragedies in which lives are taken at the hands of known acquaintences and/or family members. Our society is stricken with the institutions of white collar crime permeating throughout this great nation and greed which tends to strike at the very fabric of our country. If you are looking for affordable health insurance check out http://bit.ly/chE6zp . I hope everyone will soon recognize and use the resources made by this transformation to seek professional medical attention as the need arises rather than turning to illegal and criminal activities to resolve their issues.

  • hhamil

    I’m a little confused, Ms. Schreck, by your description of those of us who are openly working to amend S 510 as “the anti-S. 510 cabal.”
    It’s been over 45 years since my last vocabulary test so I refreshed my memory of “cabal’s” meaning. Dictionary.com defines it, as follows:
    1. a small group of secret plotters, as against a government or person in authority.
    2. the plots and schemes of such a group; intrigue.
    3. a clique, as in artistic, literary, or theatrical circles.
    Which one(s) are we?
    As over 155 local, regional & national groups have signed a letter supporting the Tester-Hagan amendments and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and the National Organic Coalition involving several dozen more groups have worked to improve S 510, we clearly aren’t a small group.
    Nor are we secret about our desires or activities.
    Nor do we speak with a single voice.
    Nor can I name a single one of those scores of groups that has characterized “S. 510 as…a method of lining the pockets of Monsanto.”
    Yes, there are bloggers and some groups who do what you describe but they are clearly a small minority. And there are the “Doc Mudds” who do it the other way.
    Much worse for civil discussion, Ms. Schreck, are the proponents of S 510/HR 2749 who, like you have done in this op-ed, continue showing few qualms about misleading others about what we are saying.
    What y’all are doing is dissembling.

  • http://www.foodsafetynews.com sschreck

    Hi Harry,
    This article was accidentally published under my byline and was written by Bill Marler. I’ve corrected that issue and will pass on your comments to him.

  • Harry Hamil

    I’m a little confused, Ms. Schreck, by your description of those of us who are openly working to amend S 510 as “the anti-S. 510 cabal.”
    It’s been over 45 years since my last vocabulary test so I refreshed my memory of “cabal’s” meaning. Dictionary.com defines it, as follows:
    1. a small group of secret plotters, as against a government or person in authority.
    2. the plots and schemes of such a group; intrigue.
    3. a clique, as in artistic, literary, or theatrical circles.
    Which one(s) are we?
    As over 155 local, regional & national groups have signed a letter supporting the Tester-Hagan amendments and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and the National Organic Coalition involving several dozen more groups have worked to improve S 510, we clearly aren’t a small group.
    Nor are we secret about our desires or activities.
    Nor do we speak with a single voice.
    Nor can I name a single one of those scores of groups that has characterized “S. 510 as…a method of lining the pockets of Monsanto.”
    Yes, there are bloggers and some groups who do what you describe but they are clearly a small minority. And there are the “Doc Mudds” who do it the other way.
    Much worse for civil discussion, Ms. Schreck, are the proponents of S 510/HR 2749 who, like you have done in this op-ed, continue showing few qualms about misleading others about what we are saying.
    What y’all are doing is dissembling.

  • Bill Jaspers

    Interesting points, all.
    I do agree that we should be able to have a reasoned debate about the pros and cons of such issues. Getting hysterical–as some folks tend to do when defending their “Sacred Cow” (whatever it may be) does nothing at all to advance anyone’s understanding or acceptance of the issue.
    As for raw milk, well there are plenty of risks in consuming it if you didn’t grow up on a farm where you did that all the time. There is a great deal to be said for constant exposure to low levels of microrganisms. People who have been drinking raw most of their lives have excercised their immune systems like a weight lifter excercises his muscles. In both cases they get stronger.
    However, if a person has never drank (or is it drunk? or something else?) raw milk, they are at much greater risk than someone who has been doing their whole lives.
    As for me–I have never had it, and I believe it would be very unwise for me to start drinking it.
    One thing I have not heard discussed in this debate is this: Why not have those who want to sell raw milk to the public test each batch for the presence of E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria and Campylobacter? If they are found, the milk must be pasteurized. If the tests are negative, then it is fine to sell as raw milk.
    What do you think folks?

  • http://www.foodsafetynews.com Suzanne Schreck

    Hi Harry,
    This article was accidentally published under my byline and was written by Bill Marler. I’ve corrected that issue and will pass on your comments to him.

  • Mary

    ha ha ha
    “But, folks are angry about their view of food–especially the proponents of raw milk (affectionately, “raw milkies”) and the anti-S. 510 folks (affectionately, “organic tea baggers”).”
    That made my evening.

  • Steve

    Will your raw milk retail sampling project have as large a scope as your ground beef testing project? What pathogens will you be testing for? At least Lm and generic shiga-toxin producers at minimum one would think.

  • John Q. Galt

    “I am also beginning to work on a raw milk retail sampling project to test its safety.”
    LOL you’re just doing this now. Milk truck chasin’ lawyers I tell ya. What’s that Shakespeare quote….?

  • Puzzled

    Well, you’d like to agree to disagree? Ok, I do too. I take it that agree to disagree means you won’t drink raw milk, and I will? See, I reach this conclusion since you, like me, sound quite anti-violence. You take as a given (and I agree) that it is bad to be violent. So I presume you would never think of advocating that violence be used against me, simply because I choose to drink milk that you disagree about. Am I right?

  • Dan M.

    It’s only food. Don’t you have bigger fish to fry?

  • Nick H

    What is wrong with letting consumers decide what is healthy or not. There are risks in drinking raw milk to be sure, and the product is under severe limitations by state and Federal authorities, but what about the risks associated with monosodium glutumate, high fructose corn syrup, and Aspertame, all of which are blessed by the powers that be? The issue of letting people buy what they choose, caveat emptor, must be separated from the debate over expanded health care. Letting Americans choose what they consume is an important aspect of personal liberty.

  • Bill Jaspers

    Those who ask what organisms should be tested for in raw milk should read the second to the last paragraph in my comment of 8/2/10, where I clearly spell out what should be tested for.
    And Steve–I only made a proposal that I haven’t seen anywhere else in the raw milk debate. Why do you call it “your” ground beef testing project? FSIS put that in place. I don’t even work in the meat industry, or, for that matter in the dairy industry, either. But I do work in the food industry as a Quality Control Manager in a small nut and vegetable processing firm.
    As anyone working in microbiology in the food industry will tell you, testing milk is a great deal easier that testing ground beef. Bacteria are not uniformly distributed in or on a product, particularly a solid one like ground beef. They also are not uniformly distributed in a liquid like milk, but they are much more likely to be spread out and detected.
    Food sampling is destructive; that is, it destroys the sample. Therefore, it has to be done statistically. About the best that can be done with current methodology is to a 95% confidence level. That simply means that 95% of the lot is free of whatever you tested for, but potentially the other 5% could have that defect. It also means that whatever test method is used to detect the defect, it could still be present, but at a level below the ability of the test to pick it up.
    Food sampling is an imperfect science. Would testing raw milk for pathogens eliminate the outbreaks we are having? Probably not entirely–we live in an imperfect world, after all–but it would go a long ways towards reducing them.
    There is a failure rate with everything human beings do. The FAA doesn’t dare come out and say that there will be plane crash every so many thousand flights (they’d probably get lynched!), but the sad fact is that they do happen. The best any of can do is try to reduce such tragedies. And so it is with the raw milk debate.
    I am simply trying to inject a little reason and logic into what often becomes a very polarizing, sometimes near hysterical debate [by the proponents] debate on “freedom to chose what I want to eat or drink” vs. food safety for public health.
    As to Nick H.’s question about letting consumers decide what is healthy or not, he makes some good points. There’s nothing at all wrong with letting people make their own choices. But when they choose to consume something that has a high probability of making them very ill, possibly causing life long devastating effects or even resulting in their deaths, it ceases to be restricted only to their own choice. Ever hear of the Hill-Burton Act? That’s the federal law that says that hospitals MUST treat anyone that comes in whether they can pay or not. If they can’t, the taxpayer picks up the tab–that’s you and me, and a lot of other people who haven’t chosen to consume this risky product.
    If it only involved the person making the choice, I say, “Knock yourself out!” Drink cyanide for all I care. But when I have to pay for the treatment of someone who knowingly or unknowingly–like three year old children–consumes a product that can injure or kill them, I think personal choice stops there.
    Pay for your own treatment when that happens.