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Network of raw camel milk operations spurs FDA warnings

A Saudi entrepreneur who runs a California-based raw milk network that stretches across the United States is on notice from the FDA to stop making illegal claims about the therapeutic benefits of unpasteurized milk, including raw camel milk.

This farm in Lancaster county, PA, is one of a handful of camel milking operations in the United States. Photo by Dreamstime

This farm in Lancaster county, PA, is one of a handful of camel milking operations in the United States. Photo by Dreamstime

In a warning letter dated Sept. 15, 2016, and recently made public, the Food and Drug Administration threatened to seize products and/or seek an injunction against Walid Abdul-Wahab and his Santa Monica-based Desert Farms company.

Statements on the Desert Farms website and Facebook observed in June 2016 page are specifically cited in the warning letter. Abdul-Wahab had 15 days to respond to the letter. The FDA has not yet issued a close out letter on the case.

Among the claims identified as illegal by the FDA are references to raw camel milk helping people with tuberculosis, diabetes and autism. The Desert Farms website and Facebook page also claimed unpasteurized camel milk could cure allergies and Crohn’s disease.

“Your products are not generally recognized as safe and effective for the above referenced uses,” states the warning letter.

“… Your Raw Camel Milk (Fresh); Raw Camel Milk (Frozen); Raw Camel Milk Kefir (Fresh); Raw Camel Milk Kefir (Frozen); Pasteurized Camel Milk (Fresh); Pasteurized Camel Milk (Frozen); and Raw Camel Milk 1st Colostrum (Frozen); Raw Camel Milk Regular Colostrum (Frozen); Camel Milk Powder; Camel Milk Soap (assorted scents) products are intended for treatment of one or more diseases that are not amenable to self-diagnosis or treatment without the supervision of a licensed practitioner.”

The FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have standing public warnings against unpasteurized raw milk. Pasteurization kills bacteria and pathogens commonly found in raw milk, including E. coli, Listeria, Salmonella and Campylobacter.

Amish dairy owner says he’ll stop breaking the law
Among the raw milk producers affiliated with Abdul-Wahab’s Desert Farms network are several Amish dairies, including that of Sam Hosteler of Miller, MO.

The southwest Missouri dairy farmer got his own warning letter from the FDA recently — also related to raw camel milk. The Dec. 19 letter said Hosteler was in violation of the federal Public Health Service Act because he was selling unpasteurized milk across state lines.

A pint of Hosteler’s raw camel milk goes for about $8. He told the Springfield, MO, News-Leader newspaper that a camel only produces about two to three gallons of milk per day, compared to the 10 gallons a dairy cows can produce.

The Amish dairyman also told the Springfield newspaper he will abide by the federal law and stop selling raw milk to people outside Missouri. Some states, Missouri included, allow farmers to sell raw milk direct to consumers at their farms.

Apparently aware of the federal law before the FDA warning, Hosteler was included in a November 2016 article by The New Food Economy that detailed the network of Amish and Mennonite farmers supplying Abdul-Wahab’s Desert Farms network. Abdul-Wahab told CNBC in 2015 that his camel milk sells for about $8 per pint and that he had more than 100,000 customers.

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