Raw Milk Gets a Raw DealJuly 6, 2010
To public health officials and state departments of agriculture, unpasteurized milk is a dangerous, germ-ridden liquid that is especially hazardous to children and their immature immune systems. And the FDA has been on a rampage against raw milk for quite some time. If it weren’t for the fact that twenty-eight states allow the sale of raw milk, the FDA would ban it nationally. The agency has already banned raw milk artisanal cheeses that aren’t aged at least 60 days, a requirement that puts an enormous strain on small artisanal farms and cheesemakers.
In the case of imported cheeses such as from France, only a limited number of producers are allowed in at all, thereby eliminating the best cheeses. This is another glaring example of how the FDA prefers to concentrate food and drug production in the hands of a few large companies with which the agency has close ties. Favoring large producers over family and artisanal producers does not make our food any safer. On the contrary, it just makes it less safe, less nutritious, and also invites more corruption of the government by powerful companies growing rich from government-created monopolies.
Even more galling is the fact that the raw milk cheese aging requirement is completely arbitrary. There is no scientific (or even anecdotal) evidence to suggest that aging cheese a particular length of time will make it any safer than it already is.
And it is indeed safe. Raw milk has shown to be superior to pasteurized milk in protecting against infection, diarrhea, rickets, tooth decay, and tuberculosis; children drinking raw milk have better growth rates than those drinking pasteurized milk. The Weston A. Price Foundation has launched a campaign for “real milk,” that is, pasture-fed, unprocessed, and full-fat. The campaign’s website carefully documents the safety of raw milk, its health benefits, and the economic issues involved.
ANH–USA believes consumers should have the right to access non-processed foods, and farmers should be able to offer these products directly to consumers. State laws governing the sale of raw milk vary tremendously. Retail sale of unpasteurized milk is fully legal in ten states; it is banned outright in another ten. In the rest it is legal only at the farm, via “cow-share” (when people buy shares in a cow so they’re drinking their own milk), according to the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund.
The cow providing your raw milk is important. Many cows are overmilked with bad results for their health and the quality of the milk. No one would knowingly choose a milk that is full of white blood cells and other signs of poor health.
The issue of raw milk is heating up in Wisconsin, the “land of all things dairy.” Some farmers blame huge dairy corporations for driving down prices to a point where family farms can’t compete. The problem has some farmers switching to niche markets like raw milk, hoping to have more control over their products. But Wisconsin law allows only incidental sales of raw milk (that is, it can’t be part of the farm’s regular business), and such sales cannot be advertised.
Right now there are two lawsuits in Wisconsin challenging the state’s ban on raw milk sales. In one of the suits, the operators of Grassway Organic Farm allege that regulators have no right to stop them from selling raw milk to customers who are part-owners of their farm. An attorney from Wisconsin’s Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection challenged the suit, saying, “We believe that this idea of this members-only organization that can be outside the regulations is simply not available under Wisconsin law.” The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, which is based in Virginia and advocates for raw milk sales nationally, is defending the farmers in both cases.
Both houses of the Wisconsin legislature approved a bill legalizing raw milk sales this year, only to have it be vetoed by the governor, Jim Doyle. Why the veto? The bill had been opposed by Wisconsin’s dairy industry (controlled by large producers) and the Wisconsin Medical Society.
Wisconsin residents tell your Governor, State Senators and Representative you want the raw milk bill re-introduced, passed and signed into law. TAKE ACTION HERE