Whole Foods will stop selling raw milk in Florida on Sept. 30th

The Glades Ridge Dairy, one of 19 dairies in Florida licensed to sell raw milk for pet food, was recently temporarily suspended from selling its raw milk and cheese at the Alachua County Farmers Market.

The market’s Board of Directors will decide in October whether to make the ban permanent.

Maybe, just maybe, the pet milk scheme for selling raw milk as “pet food” is coming apart in the Sunshine State.

Just why now is not entirely clear.  Maybe the grocery store workers have a new contract protecting them from doing all that winking and nodding that it must take to sell raw milk with pet food labels when the intended market for the product is human consumption.

Maybe the best scientific and legal advice is not to put one’s market or grocery store at risk by selling unpasteurized dairy products.   Best not to accept that liability.

But not all is clear yet because not everybody is talking.   Briana Madrid, who speaks for Whole Foods in Florida from offices in Ft. Lauderdale, refused to speak with Food Safety News “due to the competitive nature of the grocery industry.”

About the only competition Whole Foods has for selling raw milk in Florida is health stores and niche markets.   Large national grocery store chains won’t touch the stuff.

It is illegal to sell raw milk in Florida for human consumption.  Milk sold for human consumption must be pasteurized.  Without pasteurization, a heating process that kills bacteria, raw milk can be ripe with potentially deadly pathogens like E. coli, Listeria, and Campylobacter.

Raw milk can be sold when labeled as “pet food” and there are no laws against drinking it.  And, raw milk has a “cult-like” following of advocates who swear by its positive health benefits.  These customers are willing to pay a price for raw milk that is consistent with the “whole paycheck” reputation of the pricey Whole Foods stores.

In the last year, the price for milk going to regular dairies has plummeted to as low at $1 a gallon. Raw milk can fetch as much as $15 a gallon.

Wendy Mathias, who maintains a website called Miami Real Food, has launched a campaign to persuade Whole Foods to stay in the raw milk business.   Mathias wants to be able to continue to get her two-liter bottles of raw milk from the corner of a cooler that is mostly stacked with eggs.
Florida law prevents Whole Foods from displaying raw milk beside pasteurized milk.

“Please do not stop offering raw milk to your customers,” Mathias writes in an open letter to Whole Foods.  “Your commitment to continue to offer this important nutrient-dense food is a market of your commitment to serving the community with the healthiest foods they can’t easily access anywhere else.”

She says: “Clean, raw milk from grass-fed dairy cattle has sustained human populations for thousands of years and is a complete, balanced, and nutritious food.”  There are also online petitions going urging Whole Foods to continue to sell raw milk “wherever it legally can.”

Unless Mathias and the other petitioners are successful, Whole Foods will cease selling raw milk labeled as pet food at 16 Florida stores.  They are located in Aventura, Boca Raton, Coral Gables, Coral Spring, Ft. Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami Beach, Naples, Orlando, Palm Beach Gardens, Pinecrest, Plantation, Sarasota, Tampa, Wellington, and Winter Park.

Meanwhile, Joe Pietrangelo at the Glades Ridge Dairy is calling in the Farm To Consumer Legal Defense Fund, which exists to defend farmers who are legally selling raw dairy and vegetable products to consumers.   He thinks the Alachua County Farmers Market is the first to ever prohibit a dairy that has complied with all state regulations and market requirements from making sales.

“We are in full compliance with all Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services regulations and possess a fully executed permit to sell raw milk/dairy as long as it is properly labeled,” writes Pietrangelo to his supporters.

The Alachua County Farmers Market, held Saturdays 8:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. at 5920 N.W. 13th St., near the Gainesville Highway Patrol Station.   Gainesville also has the Union Street Farmers Market, which runs Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Bo Diddley Community Plaza, 111 E. University Ave.