About 100 raw milk advocates rallied outside of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland Tuesday, serving raw milk and cookies, to protest federal interstate regulation of unpasteurized milk. The rally was the culmination of a “Raw Milk Freedom Riders” caravan of moms transporting raw milk across state lines — from Pennsylvania to Maryland.

FDArally1.jpg“The beloved American tradition of milk and cookies is a crime for some mothers,” said the Farm Food Freedom Coalition, which organized the event. Raw milk has been prohibited from interstate commerce since 1987, but 30 states, including Pennsylvania, allow sales within state borders.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatricians and the FDA deem raw milk a public health risk, pointing to a variety disease-causing pathogens such as E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria that can potentially contaminate raw dairy. According to FDA, between 1987 and 2010 there were 133 outbreaks, 2,659 illnesses, 269 hospitalizations, 3 deaths, 6 stillbirths and 2 miscarriages linked to raw milk and raw milk products.

Raw milk advocates argue that they have the freedom to make their own food choices and the federal regulation banning the interstate sale of raw dairy is unfounded, if not unconstitutional.

“By criminalizing me for the food choices I make for my family, the FDA is effectively saying that I have no right to feed my family what I, as the parent, know is best for them,” said Suzy Provine, one of the moms who helped carry raw milk across state lines. “It is one thing to inform me about my choices, but the FDA goes too far by forcing what they think is best on my family.”

Though transporting raw milk across state lines for sale or distribution is illegal, there were no arrests. “The FDA has never taken, nor does it intend to take, enforcement action against an individual who purchased and transported raw milk across state lines solely for his or her own personal consumption,” said the agency in a statement Tuesday.

Advocates drove as far as Kentucky, Illinois, and Minnesota to take part in the event, which included well-known libertarian farmer Joel Salatin, of Food, Inc, and Omnivore’s Dilemma, Mark McAfee, of Organic Pastures dairy in California, the largest raw dairy company in the U.S., and Sally Fallon of the Weston Price Foundation.

Pictured: Mark McAffee of Organic Pastures addresses the crowd. Photo by Helena Bottemiller.