Of course the authorities are spending thousands in legal expense trying to find a way to thwart this method of avoidance.
You may be sure that a farmer who sells raw milk is extra careful in cleaning. After all he drinks it also. Our knowledge of best practice is far ahead of earlier practice besides.
And what ailments are we talking about anymore? They are all generally eliminated at the farm in the first place by careful husbandry and testing to ensure animal health. Besides any milk thought to be at risk can be shipped and thus pasteurized.
Perhaps most commercial milk contains product that was shipped because the owner was not comfortable.
This is a problem looking for a common sense compromise, rather than this nonsense.
Read the second article to be reminded of the real dangers that exist. Most are safely avoided year after year.
I actually think that raw milk may be a good prospect for electro magnetic sterilization methods. These are well known, but see little application effort. Yet it is a method that could be used as the milk is been bottled on the farm, assuring safe product. It may even be applicable to the bottled produce which is better and merely involves passing the filled and sealed bottle through a magnetic ring. This certainly prevents loss of heat sensitive components directly involving taste.
Want raw milk? Lease a farm—and hire a lawyer
22 JUL 2010 4:00 AM
For two monts earlier this year, Wisconsin dairy farmer
Hershberger let the proposed contract sit unsigned on his desk. Vernon
The agreement specified that a nonprofit organization known as Right to Choose Healthy Food, and headed by raw food advocate Aajonus Vonderplanitz, would lease his farm's 50 cows and dozens of chickens -- "the works," says Hershberger. In exchange, the organization would have access to all the food from the animals: milk, eggs, and meat.
Then, on June 2, agents from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection raided his Grazin' Acres farm near
, and placed seals on the refrigerators in his small store. He was operating without a retailer license and a dairy license, the regulators said. The fact that he wasn't open to the general public, but was selling direct to "members" of his farm, didn't matter. Madison
The day after the raid, Hershberger cut the DATCP seals and defiantly re-opened for business. His confidence was buttressed by the fact that he decided that day to sign the contract with Right to Choose Healthy Food.
The deal is "simple," says Hershberger, and besides, "I think Aajonus knows what he's doing."
The wizard of raws
Vonderplanitz followed up by sending a letter to
's DATCP explaining that Hershberger Wisconsin
... is not engaged in commerce. His farm animals are leased to Right To Choose Healthy Food's Grazin' Acres Farm Coop Club who owns them. Vernon Hershberger is the boarder, caretaker, milker, packager, and deliverer of our animals' products. Since the private club owns dairy, egg, and meat production, there is no commerce involved. Since no commerce of buying or selling raw milk and our other products to the public is involved, or distributed in public places, government agencies have NO JURISDICTION over the production, labeling and use of the club's products consumed by its members, nor is any permit required ... It is shameful for (DATCP) to try to prevent us from producing and distributing our health-giving raw milk and other farm products to our members by threatening and imposing false warrants, seizures, and arrests of our property. Since you were duly warned that this was a private club and you had no jurisdiction over it, your actions were criminal stealing, kidnap, and trespass.
Though DATCP agents have since been back to his farm twice more with search warrants, the last time taking Hershberger's computer, checkbook, and other records, there has been no sign of any criminal or other charges being filed against the farmer.
If the experiences of other farmers like Hershberger are any indication, there's a good chance no charges will come. Over the last eight years, Vonderplanitz has put together lease agreements giving Right to Choose Healthy Food, and its hundreds of consumer members around the country, the rights to the land and produce of about 40 small farms.
While there have been a number of raids, especially in recent months, as I described previously for Grist, there have yet to be any legal challenges brought against the lease arrangements, he says. "If they had jurisdiction, they would have busted us a long time ago," he told me.
Not only is Vonderplanitz not afraid of a legal challenge, he welcomes one. "I hope they file charges against us," he says. While the distribution centers in major urban areas, like the one raided in Venice, must comply with fire codes and zoning regulations, they need not comply with food licensing or labeling laws required of foods sold to the public, he argues. Nor must they comply with the federal prohibition on interstate sales of raw milk. There can't be such a prohibition for member leaseholders, he maintains, since they own the farm products when they are produced.
"If you take your property from
Pennsylvania to , there is no federal jurisdiction," he says. Vonderplanitz likens the farm lease agreements to automobile leases. "In lease agreements, you have total ownership of the contract and responsibility for the items leased. If you wreck a leased car, you are totally responsible." California
The analogy is important, he says, since lease-related law has a 75-year history of recognition by our legal system. "Herdshare" and "cowshare" agreements, used in many states to give raw-milk drinkers shares in cows and goats, are less legally secure, he says. He likens the rights of a herdshare owner to those of an owner of stock in a major corporation, where shareholders have certain financial rights, but don't necessarily have right to the corporation's products, or responsibility for the products. (Though herdshare rights were upheld by an
court in 2006, and the state didn't appeal the case.) Ohio
Vonderplanitz maintains that the lease agreements aren't just devices to enable foodies to avoid complying with food licensing rules and the federal interstate raw milk prohibition, and has successfully persuaded farmers who've considered backing out of the agreements to stand firm.
In a case last winter, a Midwest farmer in the midst of a two-year lease agreement with Right to Choose considered shutting down his raw milk production after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sought to enforce warning letters maintaining the farmer was violating the federal prohibition on raw-milk sales across state lines. Vonderplanitz says he told the farmer that his group would enforce its lease agreement by taking over the farm and cows to continue producing milk for members. The farmer, encouraged by Vonderplanitz's commitment, decided to fire his lawyers, who'd encouraged him to accept the FDA mandate, and continue with the Vonderplanitz organization. Vonderplanitz says he notified the FDA, much the same as he did
Wisconsin DATCP in the Hershberger case, that the farm was under a lease agreement, and says the farm continues to provide his members with raw milk.
Another farmer who signed on with RTCHF was Daniel Allgyer. He made his decision shortly after agents from the FDA showed up at his
Vonderplanitz sees himself as having "rescued" these and other farmers from possibly being thrown out of business by FDA and state agriculture authority actions against private food organizations. "They have left all the people alone since I notified the authorities."
The raid on the RTCHF warehouse in Venice, Calif., three weeks ago, along with that on Sharon Palmer's farm in nearby Ventura County, whose goats are under lease to RTCHF, represent payback in Vanderplanitz's view.
"They are looking for any way they can to break us," he says. "They're not going to get away from it."
He says a number of prominent
lawyers have offered legal services, and RTCHF plans to sue the government agencies involved in the raids against Rawesome and Sharon Palmer's farm for $1 million apiece, for false arrest. Los Angeles
It's hard to know what the government agencies will do. While they have clearly shied away thus far from a legal confrontation over the leasing matter, the various searches suggest officials are seriously considering legal action, such as charges of violating the ban on interstate sale of raw milk. Or else they could continue their harassment actions in hopes of intimidating consumers and farmers, and scaring them away from the increasingly popular leasing arrangement.
Even without government legal action against RTCHF, there is the pending suit against the FDA by theFarm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund challenging the federal prohibition on interstate commerce of raw milk.
Clearly, we are moving closer to judicial consideration of how far consumer rights extend when it comes to consumers opting out of the factory food system and arranging for private access to the nutritionally-dense foods of their choice.
Deborah Blum, Slate.com · Friday, Jul. 23, 2010
In February, 1907, a
physician discovered that his longtime dairy supplier had switched to pasteurized milk. He so detested the practice -- not to mention the taste -- that, as he wrote to the New York Times, he would rather "run the risk of typhoid, scarlet fever, diphtheria, and tuberculosis rather than [endure] the evils that I believe would follow the systematic and prolonged use of pasteurized milk." New York
One assumes the doctor was indulging in a public temper tantrum, not broadcasting a suicide wish. By 1907, physicians knew well the blistering fevers of typhoid, the terrible choking deaths of diphtheria, and what was then called "the white plague" of tuberculosis. Raw milk containing those very pathogens had been linked to the deaths of hundreds of children in
annually. And by the time that letter was published, some four decades of experiments showed that the quick-heat treatment of pasteurization could save lives. New York City
But the subject of raw milk just makes people irrational. The doctor's snit about his preferred dairy product is part of a grand theatrical tradition, a century's worth of contention, lawsuits, accusations, counter-accusations, profanity, career damage, threats, and a certain amount of pure melodrama: "Pasteurized milk is dead milk which will rot on standing," one of the New York physician's intellectual descendents declared during hearings preceding the FDA's 1987 ban on interstate shipping of raw milk. "One of nature's most perfect foods has been murdered."
Worshippers at the milk shrine -- to indulge in yet more hyperbole -- stand before only one image of that perfect food. It's golden, creamy, foamy, fresh from grass-fed, family-farm cows. It doesn't cause but cures illness. Raw milk, with its legion of followers, has become a poster child of the food-rights movement, giving emotional power to the idea that all of us deserve access to untainted, unprocessed, healthy food.
And it's in this incarnation --the one that draws a cult-like following -- that the raw-milk ideal becomes dangerous.
They're not alone, of course; pure-food advocates in general tend to cast a romanticized glow over their favored products. We hear that old-fashioned organic produce contains more nutrients than that grown by modern agriculture, despite the fact that most research suggests that, basically, a carrot is a carrot and one spinach leaf is pretty much another (and all lose nutrients as they sit on a shelf ). We hear that we should return to old-fashioned farming methods, advice that ignores the key fact that such techniques are so inefficient that they can't sustain the world's current population. There's an element of wishful thinking to many food mythologies, but -- unlike the haloed status of raw milk -- most don't lead directly to risky behavior or public health concerns or physicians complaining that increased consumption of "nature's perfect food" has led to a recent doubling in the number of milk-borne disease outbreaks.
Pasteurization, named for the great 19th-century French scientist Louis Pasteur, is essentially the process of heating a liquid to a temperature that will kill most microorganisms living within it. Hoping to aid winemakers who were concerned about the rapid spoiling of their product, Pasteur discovered that as the wine aged, populations of bacteria increased, metabolizing sugars and producing acid as byproduct. But if it was gently heated to 120F before aging, the bacteria were killed, and the wine would keep for much longer.
It was actually a German chemist, Franz von Soxhlet (who never seems to get any public credit or, of course, blame), who, in 1886, first proposed using the technique to reduce bacteria in bottled milk. In the
, public health advocates began urging dairy farmers to begin using pasteurization as a means of breaking down a near tidal wave of child mortality. Raw-milk followers, including our friend the irate physician, fought the move. United States
It wasn't until 1914 -- compelled by a typhoid epidemic linked to unpasteurized milk -- that New York City finally enforced a pasteurization rule. Seven years later, the city's infant death rate, which had hovered at an appalling 240 of every 1,000 live births, had dropped to 71 deaths per 1,000, a victory many credited to pasteurization.
But not everyone was convinced. (Some consumers thought that the change in milk's taste meant that it was now less nutritious.) It took another decade for the U.S. Public Health Service to adopt a Pasteurized Milk Ordinance restricting transportation of raw milk; the policy came thanks largely to microbiologist Alice Evans, who proved that bacteria in cow's milk could make humans very sick. Evans, in fact, caught one of the diseases she was studying -- brucellosis. At the time, the disease was frequently called undulant fever, so named because body temperatures rose and fell in "undulating" waves, accompanied by intense sweating and joint pains. Evans suffered recurring attacks of the fever for years and liked to joke that it was the revenge of the microbes.
It would still take several decades for pasteurization to become the national standard. Public health officials estimated that in 1938, a full fourth of all food-borne illnesses were linked to unpasteurized milk. In one of the more publicized cases of the 1940s, Edsel Ford, son of auto tycoon Henry Ford, died from drinking raw milk from one of the family farms.
Today, just about 0.5% of all the milk consumed in the
is unpasteurized. Yet from 1998 to 2008, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention received reports of 85 infectious disease outbreaks linked to raw milk. In the past few months, physicians have treated salmonella in U.S. Utah, brucellosis in Delaware, campylobacter in Colorado and Pennsylvania, and an ugly outbreak of E. coli O157-H7 in , which sickened eight people in June. Epidemiologists not only identified a rare strain of the bacteria, but matched its DNA to those stricken, the cows on the farm that supplied them with raw milk, and manure smearing the milking equipment and even the animals themselves. When regulators shut down the dairy farm, supporters promptly charged them with belonging to a government conspiracy to smear the reputation of a hallowed food. Minnesota
Wisconsin raw-milk champion Max Kane, dismiss infectious disease altogether: "The bacteria theory's a total myth," Kane told one interviewer. "It allows us to have an enemy to go after similar to how it is with terrorism. It's food terrorism."
After a dairy in
Washington state was linked to an E. coli outbreak last December, the farmer himself put it like this in an interview with the Times. Scientists were wrong to malign his milk because "everything God designed is good for you." Seattle
It seems an odd conclusion to draw from an outbreak of Escherichia Coli O157: H7, an organism dangerous enough to kill people by causing complete renal failure. I wish someone would explain the logic that leads to the conclusion that this apparently divine infection is actually "good for you."
Raw-milk and other pure food obsessives are in love with a past that never really existed. The golden, creamy milk of those 19th-century farms killed people, often enough that public health crusaders fought for years for the protection of pasteurization. Our great-great-grandparents' farms were never meant to sustain the world; in 1898, in fact, the famed British chemist Sir William Crookes warned that without chemical fertilization, global famine loomed by the 1930s. And the pure-food, raw-milk, farms-of-our-forefathers movement would be so much more impressive -- and appear so much more concerned for others -- if it would trade some of its inspirational rhetoric for something I like to call healthy reality.