Raw milk sup­port­ers rally against fed­eral raids on farm­ers

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DI­NAN

Four weeks af­ter the gov­ern­ment moved to shut down Amish farmer Dan All­gyer for sell­ing fresh, un­pas­teur­ized milk across state lines, an­gry moms who made up much of his cus­tomer base ral­lied on the Capi­tol’s grounds May 16 to de­mand that Congress rein in the food po­lice.

The moms milked a cow just across the street from the Se­nate and served up gal­lons of fresh milk, play­fully dar­ing one an­other to drink what, if sold across state lines, would be con­sid­ered con­tra­band prod­uct.

“The FDA re­ally screwed up this time. They got be­tween a mom and a farmer,” said Mark McAfee, who runs Or­ganic Pas­tures Dair y Co. in Fresno, Calif., which un­der his state’s laws he legally sells at 400 mar­kets, but which he can­not ship across state lines with­out run­ning afoul of the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Raw milk has been mak­ing a come­back in re­cent years as con­sumers try to eat lo­cally and fresh. But the FDA has been fight­ing back, ar­gu­ing that there are big risks to drink­ing fresh milk and that it brings no ben­e­fits over the pas­teur­ized ver­sion.

The most re­cent ac­tion to garner head­lines came last month when the FDA went to court to stop Mr. All­gyer, the Amish farmer who runs Rain­bow Acres Farm in Kinzer, Pa., from sell­ing his raw milk to an ea­ger cus­tomer base in the Wash­ing­ton, D.C. re­gion.

The FDA and the Jus­tice Depart­ment sought a court in­junc­tion af­ter FDA agents con­ducted a one-year sting op­er­a­tion, com­plete with fake aliases and lab test­ing, to de­ter­mine that the milk they sur­rep­ti­tiously ob­tained from Mr. All­gyer was, in fact, un­pas­teur­ized.

Mr. All­gyer was not at the rally, but his de­fend­ers were in­fu­ri­ated that he had been tar­geted, and said it shows a gov­ern­ment out of con­trol.

“De­spite the fact that there is no ac­tual proof that any­one has ever been in­jured by milk from Dan’s cows, he is be­ing treated as if he were a drug lord by our fed­eral gov­ern­ment,” said Jonathan Emord, a Wash­ing­ton­based lawyer who says he has de­feated the FDA in court more than any other lawyer. “He is be­ing treated as if what he sells is con­tra­band that will cause in­jury to any­one who gets near the sub­stance. And this is fresh milk.”

The move­ment ties to­gether the lib­eral and con­ser­va­tive ends of the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum who are wary of gov­ern­ment in­ter­fer­ence, and their thoughts were summed up in the sign that read: “Those who wrote the Con­sti­tu­tion drank raw milk.”

One child held a sign that read, “My cow eats grass - does yours?” while a woman wore a Tshirt that said, “The revo­lu­tion will not be pas­teur­ized.”

One de­fense group says there are as many as 10 mil­lion raw-milk con­sumers in the coun­try. Sales are per­fectly legal in 10 states but il­le­gal in 11 states and the District of Columbia. The other states have vary­ing re­stric­tions on pur­chase or con­sump­tion.

Thanks to Congress’ power to reg­u­late in­ter­state com­merce, the FDA tr ies to stop sales across state lines, ar­gu­ing that raw milk could con­tain un­healthy bac­te­ria.

Dr. Robert Tauxe at the Cen­ters for Disease Con­trol and Preven­tion said in the 11 years be­tween 1998 and 2008 state and lo­cal health of­fi­cials re­ported they in­ves­ti­gated 86 out­breaks re­lated to raw milk or prod­ucts made from it, such as ice cream or cheese. Those out­breaks led to al­most 1,700 ill­nesses, 191 hos­pi­tal­iza­tions and two deaths, both from Mex­i­can-style raw milk cheeses.

He said it’s a good thing that par­ents are tak­ing con­trol of their health de­ci­sions, but said he wants them to have the facts.

“An im­por­tant thing I think for all of us to ac­knowl­edge is these peo­ple are mak­ing de­ci­sions be­cause they are con­cerned about health,” he said. “We just want peo­ple to rec­og­nize that the haz­ards are real, the risk is im­por­tant and the his­tory is very, very long. We just don’t think that raw milk can be made sig­nif­i­cantly safe enough with­out pas­teur­iz­ing it.”

He said E. coli 0157, which can be caught from raw milk, can then be spread from child to child.

The gov­ern­ment, re­al­iz­ing where the milk de­ci­sions are be­ing made, is fight­ing moms with moms.

On the CDC’s web­site page for fresh milk, the agency dis­plays videos from sev­eral moth­ers de­scrib­ing the health dis­as­ters that en­sued af­ter they fed their fam­i­lies raw milk.

In one, Kalee Prue, a sin­gle mom from Connecticut, said she got E. coli af­ter she switched to raw milk, and said the re­sult­ing kid­ney prob­lems landed her in the hos­pi­tal. By the time she was done with treat­ments, she said, she’d had more than 400 donors’ worth of plasma.

“You have to make good choices and you need to think about con­se­quences. You have to weigh risks,” she said. “Some­thing that comes out this close to a cow’s rear end, I don’t think it’s worth the risk.”

The is­sue has popped up in Congress, where Rep. Ron Paul, the Texas Repub­li­can who is run­ning for his party’s pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion, in­tro­duced a bill this month to al­low raw milk ship­ments to cross state lines. He has in­tro­duced the leg­is­la­tion in the past, to no avail.

Still, the mere men­tion of his name at the rally drew one of the big­gest cheers.

Raw milk con­sumers say they want free­dom of choice in food con­sump­tion, and have plenty of anec­do­tal sto­ries to counter the gov­ern­ment’s claim that there is no health ben­e­fit to raw milk that can’t be gleaned from pas­teur­ized milk.

Leah Mack, who runs Grazy Days Fam­ily Farm in Union Bridge, Md., and who brought the cow that was milked, said she grew up ve­gan but her health was suf­fer­ing.

She switched about six years ago and be­gan drink­ing raw milk and said she can feel the ef­fects in her teeth, lit­er­ally. She said she used to have cav­i­ties all the time, in­clud­ing un­der­neath of al­ready-drilled fill­ings, but her teeth are now healthy, as are her chil­dren’s teeth.

“The den­tist said ‘You’re do­ing great.’ Not a cav­ity, not any­thing. I said ‘Yes. This con­firms this stuff that I be­lieve and that I felt,’ ” she said.

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