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Raw Milk Advocates Protest FDA on Capitol Hill

“As far as I can tell, we are at war,” David Gumpert, a onetime journalist turned raw-milk advocate declared emphatically at a rally on Capitol Hill Monday. “We have been attacked by our own government.”

rawmilkrally4-featured.jpgThe attack, as Gumpert and other ardent supporters of raw milk describe it, occurred last month when the Department of Justice filed a permanent injunction against Rainbow Acres Farm in Kinzer, PA after the farm’s owner, Dan Allgyer, ignored warning letters from the U.S. Food and Drug Administrationfor allegedly violating federal law by selling unpasteurized dairy into interstate commerce.

The sale of unpasteurized milk is legal in more than half the states and raw milk is available, through cow shares and other means, throughout the U.S. There is no legal prohibition against consuming raw milk. But interstate sales are barred and the FDA is charged with enforcing that federal law.

“Drinking raw milk is dangerous and shouldn’t be consumed under any circumstances,” said Dara A. Corrigan, FDA’s associate commissioner for regulatory affairs, noting that raw dairy can contain “a wide variety of harmful bacteria,” including E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria and Campylobacter.

To protest the agency’s action against Allgyer, well over a hundred of his customers, many of whom live in the greater Washington, D.C.-area, staged a spirited protest, sporting signs like: “FDA, pick on someone your own size” and “Farmers are not the enemy.” The rally organizers served up several gallons of raw milk and, to much fanfare, milked a jersey cow named Morgan right outside Senate office buildings in the shadow of the Capitol.

Small children donned T-shirts that read: “FDA Leave My Farmer and My Raw Milk ALONE!”

The FDA maintains the agency is simply protecting public health.

“Consumers count on FDA to protect them from food that can carry harmful bacteria,” the agency said in a statement provided to Food Safety News Monday. “Raw milk presents a clear and well-documented danger, especially to young children, pregnant women, and the elderly. In states where it is legal to sell raw milk and raw milk products, there are three times as many outbreaks caused by those products and nearly twice as many outbreak-associated illnesses associated with them than in those states where it is unlawful to sell raw milk and raw milk products. FDA has determined that preventing the sale of unpasteurized milk across state lines saves lives and reduces illness.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics share FDA’s position on the issue, echoing similar caution toward young children and pregnant women.

Sally Fallon Morrell, co-founder and president of the raw-milk promotion group Weston A. Price Foundation and the hero of the so-called raw milk revolution, disagrees with the leading federal public health agencies.

rawmilkrally2-iphone.jpg“Children who start out on raw milk are very healthy children, as all of you know. They don’t have asthma, they don’t have allergies, they don’t miss days at school, they don’t get sick, they don’t have digestive problems,” said Fallon at the rally, to applause and cheers. “Raw milk is a magic food and we are here to defend that magic food.”

Fallon said the market for unpasteurized dairy is “growing exponentially” and predicted it would soon surpass the demand for conventionally produced, pasteurized products.

“There’s no force on earth greater than the educated, committed consumer, and passionate moms,” added Fallon.

Advocates claim nearly 15 million Americans are now consuming raw milk. And, numbers aside, there is no question the issue is becoming a symbol in the so-called food freedom debate and a rallying point shared by the Libertarian right and the foodie left.

Presidential candidate and Texas Congressman Ron Paul introduced a bill last week to allow the interstate sale of raw milk, which would remove what he believes is an “unconstitutional restraint on farmers.”

“Many Americans have done their own research and come to the conclusion that unpasteurized milk is healthier than pasteurized milk,” said Paul on the House floor last week. “These Americans have the right to consume these products without having the federal government second-guess their judgment or thwart their wishes. If there are legitimate concerns about the safety of unpasteurized milk, those concerns should be addressed at the state and local level.”

Speaking of local, a Capitol Hill police officer told protesters serving raw milk to post signs and warn passersby that they were drinking raw milk at their own risk because “the FDA and the local health department are freaking out.”

Organizers were then overheard saying “Drink at your own health,” as they handed out the unpasteurized beverage.

 

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Photos by Helena Bottemiller

© Food Safety News
  • Quimoi

    This is almost as bad as when Big Government took away my right to bottle and sell unpasteurized feedlot effluent. Now THAT was magical stuff.

  • http://www.GlobalHealthFreedom.org Ralph Fucetola JD

    One way to support access to raw milk is to support Dr. Ron Paul’s bill HR 1830 which would legalize interstate commerce in raw milk and raw milk products.
    You can message your congressional representatives on this issue here: http://tinyurl.com/rawmilkfreedom

  • hhamil

    If, as Dara A. Corrigan, FDA’s Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs says, “Drinking raw milk is dangerous and shouldn’t be consumed under any circumstances,” then why hasn’t there been a single case of foodborne illness due to contaminated raw milk produced under SC’s Regulation 61-34 Raw Milk for Human Consumption since 1994?
    I used 1994 only because that’s when my source began working in the SC department that regulates raw milk for human consumption and I don’t know about the period before that year. Raw milk for human consumption has always been legally available in SC.
    As there are currently 11 goat and 12 cow dairies permitted under SC Regulation 61-34, the failure of there to have been any cases during the last 17 years is far from anecdotal. Rather, it is clear to me (and I have a BS in mathematics and spent 35 years teasing meaning out of statistics in my first career in insurance and investments) that the FDA, CDC and others overstate the risk involved in raw milk. Obviously, the State of SC has figured out what is needed to keep the risk of pathogen caused illness connected to raw milk very low.
    SC’s well documented record also shows that the FDA’s efforts to limit the sale of SC’s legally permitted raw milk to residents of NC and GA who go or send someone to SC to buy this milk and bring it back to them are unwarranted.
    Thus, I support the efforts of Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) to stop these efforts by the FDA to limit the access of residents of states other than SC from obtaining this well regulated, legal raw milk. For info on FTCLDF’s Federal lawsuit (including actual court documents which I found very surprising and concern me greatly), please see http://www.farmtoconsumer.org/litigation-FDA.htm.
    I urge FSN’s readers to do more than simply take FSN’s articles on raw milk at face value. To me, it is clear that FSN’s coverage reflects its publisher’s not fully considered bias and fails to report the entire story of raw milk.

  • dangermaus

    Whether you like raw milk or not, it’s none of the state or federal governments business to forbid those that want to buy it (or sell it) from doing so. The government should not be in the business of protecting us from ourselves!

  • mrothschild

    In April 2007 there was a dual outbreak of Campylobacter jejuni and Salmonella Give among 11 people who drank raw milk at a private home in South Carolina.

  • Doc Mudd

    Thought you were a North Carolina boy, Harry. What’s your sudden infatuation with SC? I guess the Carolinas are not exempt from food poisoning from unpasteurized dairy…
    http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5026a3.htm
    Took all of about 45 seconds to google that up.
    An old insurance salesman ought to understand and respect risk, even while actively ignoring it in order to hustle sales.

  • hhamil

    Mary,
    Did you miss that my comment is ONLY about “raw milk produced under SC’s Regulation 61-34 Raw Milk for Human Consumption since 1994.” It has nothing to do with raw milk from any other source in SC.
    So, Mary, I need more details on the outbreak you have described to be able to discern if it involves “raw milk produced under SC’s Regulation 61-34 Raw Milk for Human Consumption.” If it does, please give me the details and a cite so that I can review the outbreak. As the source of my information is James S. Williamson, Jr., REHS, Program Manager, Dairy Foods and Soft Drink/Bottled Water Program, Bureau of Environmental Health of the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control, I will be quite surprised if your cited case involves “raw milk produced under SC’s Regulation 61-34 Raw Milk for Human Consumption.”
    Also, if the case you cited is NOT germane to my comment, please publish that fact as a comment so it will be clear that your earlier comment doesn’t refute mine.

  • hhamil

    As for “Doc Mudd’s” comment, it is nothing but his/her/its usual attempt to divert a serious comment via personal derogatory comments in blatant violation of the comment policy that Bill Marler established for FSN but Marler and FSN fail to enforce. I find it so sad and disgusting that neither Marler nor FSN has shown the integrity to, at least, withdraw the “policy” or tell us why “Doc Mudd” is given license to violate it.
    Now to the content of “Doc Mudd’s” comment. It has NOTHING to do with what I wrote. Mudd cited a case in NORTH Carolina, not South Carolina so it has nothing to do with “raw milk produced under SC’s Regulation 61-34 Raw Milk for Human Consumption.”
    A personal derogatory attack coupled with a cited case that has nothing to do with my comment. That’s par for “Doc Mudd” and one of the reasons I limit my comments. I get tired of being falsely attacked and needing to set the record straight when the perpetrator has neither the guts nor decency to openly disclose her/his/its actual identity.

  • Harry Hamil

    If, as Dara A. Corrigan, FDA’s Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs says, “Drinking raw milk is dangerous and shouldn’t be consumed under any circumstances,” then why hasn’t there been a single case of foodborne illness due to contaminated raw milk produced under SC’s Regulation 61-34 Raw Milk for Human Consumption since 1994?
    I used 1994 only because that’s when my source began working in the SC department that regulates raw milk for human consumption and I don’t know about the period before that year. Raw milk for human consumption has always been legally available in SC.
    As there are currently 11 goat and 12 cow dairies permitted under SC Regulation 61-34, the failure of there to have been any cases during the last 17 years is far from anecdotal. Rather, it is clear to me (and I have a BS in mathematics and spent 35 years teasing meaning out of statistics in my first career in insurance and investments) that the FDA, CDC and others overstate the risk involved in raw milk. Obviously, the State of SC has figured out what is needed to keep the risk of pathogen caused illness connected to raw milk very low.
    SC’s well documented record also shows that the FDA’s efforts to limit the sale of SC’s legally permitted raw milk to residents of NC and GA who go or send someone to SC to buy this milk and bring it back to them are unwarranted.
    Thus, I support the efforts of Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) to stop these efforts by the FDA to limit the access of residents of states other than SC from obtaining this well regulated, legal raw milk. For info on FTCLDF’s Federal lawsuit (including actual court documents which I found very surprising and concern me greatly), please see http://www.farmtoconsumer.org/litigation-FDA.htm.
    I urge FSN’s readers to do more than simply take FSN’s articles on raw milk at face value. To me, it is clear that FSN’s coverage reflects its publisher’s not fully considered bias and fails to report the entire story of raw milk.

  • http://www.marlerblog.com bill marler

    Harry, Doc, can you please tone it down?

  • Mary Rothschild

    In April 2007 there was a dual outbreak of Campylobacter jejuni and Salmonella Give among 11 people who drank raw milk at a private home in South Carolina.

  • Harry Hamil

    Mary,
    Did you miss that my comment is ONLY about “raw milk produced under SC’s Regulation 61-34 Raw Milk for Human Consumption since 1994.” It has nothing to do with raw milk from any other source in SC.
    So, Mary, I need more details on the outbreak you have described to be able to discern if it involves “raw milk produced under SC’s Regulation 61-34 Raw Milk for Human Consumption.” If it does, please give me the details and a cite so that I can review the outbreak. As the source of my information is James S. Williamson, Jr., REHS, Program Manager, Dairy Foods and Soft Drink/Bottled Water Program, Bureau of Environmental Health of the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control, I will be quite surprised if your cited case involves “raw milk produced under SC’s Regulation 61-34 Raw Milk for Human Consumption.”
    Also, if the case you cited is NOT germane to my comment, please publish that fact as a comment so it will be clear that your earlier comment doesn’t refute mine.

  • Harry Hamil

    As for “Doc Mudd’s” comment, it is nothing but his/her/its usual attempt to divert a serious comment via personal derogatory comments in blatant violation of the comment policy that Bill Marler established for FSN but Marler and FSN fail to enforce. I find it so sad and disgusting that neither Marler nor FSN has shown the integrity to, at least, withdraw the “policy” or tell us why “Doc Mudd” is given license to violate it.
    Now to the content of “Doc Mudd’s” comment. It has NOTHING to do with what I wrote. Mudd cited a case in NORTH Carolina, not South Carolina so it has nothing to do with “raw milk produced under SC’s Regulation 61-34 Raw Milk for Human Consumption.”
    A personal derogatory attack coupled with a cited case that has nothing to do with my comment. That’s par for “Doc Mudd” and one of the reasons I limit my comments. I get tired of being falsely attacked and needing to set the record straight when the perpetrator has neither the guts nor decency to openly disclose her/his/its actual identity.

  • hhamil

    Not in this case, Bill, not until you start enforcing the comment policy that you established for FSN. Then there will be no need for this comment nor this tone. Instead, I could thank y’all for enforcing your policy.
    Had FSN transparently enforced your policy, Bill, it would have blocked “Doc Mudd’s” comment and noted the block in this comment section.
    Instead, you and FSN have allowed “Doc Mudd” to throw mud at me (as he has many times before) and mislead FSN’s readers about my comment. You didn’t block it so I set the record straight. That is not only my right but also my responsibility if I am to avoid being your and FSN’s enabler.
    And each time I do so, Bill, you have another opportunity to do not only your job but also to keep the promise to us readers inherent in your policy.

  • stephy

    I’m an OH resident and belong to a herdshare, as this is the only way to access raw milk in OH. I grew up on raw milk in the 1970s….never got sick. From personal experience, I believe that raw milk from organic farmers is much safer and healthier than milk from mass production “mega farms” that have to pasteurize because of the antibiotics used.
    I also think the FDA is full of ____. If FDA is so concerned about our health and safety, why do they approve/allow Genetically Modified Foods (GMO)?

  • Michael Bulger

    Often there is the insistence that our only options on the market are raw milk and antibiotic-laden milk from factory farms. Why is this?
    Certified Organic pasteurized milk from small farmers is widely available in New York. Are other areas having trouble finding Organic milk?
    http://www.cornucopia.org/dairysurvey/index.html
    When I buy milk, I know I am supporting pastured cows on small farms and farmers who are getting a fair deal. It’s more affordable than raw milk, and it certainly is safer because it has been pasteurized.
    I also feel better knowing that a third-party is certifying these producers. It wasn’t long ago that a WAPF-listed raw goat milk dairy was caught with antibiotic residue in their products. The idea that WAPF offers consumers some sort of assurance that their dairies are not using antibiotics is unsupported.
    http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/02/raw-goat-milk-recalled-in-washington-state/

  • dangermaus

    I wonder if Mudd gets blocked as often as I do…

  • Harry Hamil

    Not in this case, Bill, not until you start enforcing the comment policy that you established for FSN. Then there will be no need for this comment nor this tone. Instead, I could thank y’all for enforcing your policy.
    Had FSN transparently enforced your policy, Bill, it would have blocked “Doc Mudd’s” comment and noted the block in this comment section.
    Instead, you and FSN have allowed “Doc Mudd” to throw mud at me (as he has many times before) and mislead FSN’s readers about my comment. You didn’t block it so I set the record straight. That is not only my right but also my responsibility if I am to avoid being your and FSN’s enabler.
    And each time I do so, Bill, you have another opportunity to do not only your job but also to keep the promise to us readers inherent in your policy.

  • mrothschild

    dangermaus, you don’t get blocked.

  • Mary Rothschild

    dangermaus, you don’t get blocked.

  • Keely Johnson

    I think it’s quite obvious that the reason they allow GMO food is because it lines the pockets… and if people found out that raw milk is better for them and started buying from small farms that it would REALLY hurt Monsanto’s pocket book. This man was for some reason put in charge of our food and safety despite the fact that he is one of the main problems with our food industry in America. It all comes back to $$$$$$$$.