One More Bite At the Apple: Only a Little Time to Call Senators to Head off SB 510; Time to Feed Chickens Raw Dairy?

I swear, you have to be a parliamentary expert to figure out what's happening with the so-called food safety legislation, S 510. But in a nutshell, it's very close to passage in the U.S. Senate. When that happens, the Senate version will go to the House, which previously passed a similar version, and then to President Obama, who has committed himself to signing whatever Congress passes on food safety.

The pressure is on to pass this thing now, in a lame-duck session with holdovers already voted out of office, since the new Congress may well be less inclined to sanction the kind of broad clampdown on rights this legislation includes, not to mention the budgetary strains of hiring a new army of food inspectors.

If S 510 is going to be stopped, it has to happen now. I was involved yesterday in a phone meeting with a broad array of opponents , and it seems the main hope of scuttling this thing will take place next Monday, when there's at least one more vote on cloture. This is the technical term for limiting debate in the Senate, where the rules otherwise allow senators opposing a bill to talk it to death via endless debate, known as a filibuster.

Cloture requires 60 votes to invoke, and a vote last week (before the bill was amended) was approved by a 75-25 margin. That means 25 senators were willing to stand up against this bill, and I understand the number is rising. If 16 additional senators can be persuaded to go along with cloture, the bill could be headed off.

The most fertile territory for the votes is in non-Big-Ag states, such as in New England. There, most senators voted for cloture last week. Now is the time to call, and go to this site for a list of senators who should be contacted, in addition to your own state's senators.

Confusing the whole situation even further is the fact that a number of food organizations, like the Weston A. Price Foundation, have changed from pushing for defeat of the legislation to urging members to push their senators to support the current version of S 510 with the Tester-Hager amendment exempting some small food producers from most  of S 510's requirements. It sounds nice that producers with less than $500,000 sales would be exempted, but there's lots more to being exempted than that. Moat notably, at least 50% of your sales need to be direct to consumers and you can't sell outside a 275 mile radius from your production facility. Want to ship to customers 300 miles away? Too bad. Meet your new friends from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, who will do their best to regulate you out of business.

I understand that some opponents of S 510 are willing to compromise to gain exemptions from small direct sellers, but knowing the FDA the way I do, I would expect it to find ways around the legislation if there are groups of producers it wants to target. It can simply say it has concerns about the safety of their food, or if it wants to be extra careful, it can audit a firm to make sure it meets all the criteria. If it finds a firm selling 49% direct, or outside the 275-mile radius, bring out the hangman's noose.

The key now is to urge senators to vote against cloture because of grave concerns that the legislation goes way beyond food safety and into food and constitutional rights. Remember, it gives the U.S. Food and Drug Administration broad executive powers to quarantine large parts of the country, to conduct warrantless searches of food producers, and to enact so-called Good Agricultural Practices to infringe on farmers' rights to determine how their crops will be grown and their animals raised.

I suppose S 510 with the small-producer exemption is a preferable fallback position to not having it at all, but it definitely doesn't make me feel better about letting the FDA wolf into the small food producer henhouse.

***
The FDA comes under a bit of scrutiny in a New York Times article about Estrella Family Creamery last Saturday. But just a bit.

The article raises the basic question of whether the FDA's zero-tolerance approach to listeria is realistic, and only begins to get at the real issues driving the agency's efforts to put Estrella and Morningland Dairy out of business. It points out that the FDA last April began an inspection program to test 102  cheese makers for listeria, without asking the question of why, and why then. It turns out that a high-ranking FDA official had just a couple months earlier begun talking up the idea of doing away with the 60-day aging requirement for raw milk cheese. An organization of cheese makers last month warned its members of an FDA clampdown on raw cheeses.

One of the people quoted in the article, perhaps inadvertently, sums up the likely real story of what's going on with the cheese inspections.

“'If the F.D.A. wanted to shut down the U.S. artisan cheese industry, all they’d have to do is do this environmental surveillance and the odds of finding a pathogen would be pretty great,' said Catherine W. Donnelly, co-director of the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese of the University of Vermont, referring to the listeria testing at cheese plants. 'Is our role to shut these places down or help them?'" Ms. Donnelly asks that question as if the answer is the latter, to help the cheese makers. But, of course, the likely real answer is that the FDA would like nothing better than to shut these places down.

It's interesting that FDA apologists keep saying, to effect, "Well, the rules are the rules. FDA is just enforcing the rules." In point of fact, the FDA's rules on listeria aren't the same rules used by other industrialized countries, including the fathers of cheese making--the European Union. Nor will the FDA entertain any discussion about its zero-tolerance approach, or provide counts of listeria organisms present in the tests it does.

On that point, there is an interesting exchange on the Marler/Clark law firm's blog about zero tolerance. Bill Anderson, the cheese expert who frequently comments here, raises this question as part of a long exchange with Marler: "Since you travel so much, can you tell me if there is any other nation on earth which has zero-tolerance for listeria monocytogenes in all RTE foods, regardless of pH, moisture, salt, or shelf stability? I'm genuinely interested."

To which Marler responds: "Granted Bill, I am not a food scientist nor a 25 year old cheese maker. I also have no idea if other countries do or do not have zero tolerance for listeria in ready to eat foods..."

I did a very quick google search on listeria tolerance by the European Union, and presto, the first link was a press release from the European Food Safety Authority, the EU's equivalent of the FDA, issued in 2008 that stated:  Different approaches are taken by public authorities across the world in monitoring the levels of Listeria. In the European Union, there are maximum safety tolerance levels for Listeria[1] in food products."

The tolerance is 100 or fewer organisms in 25 grams of a product. It's not clear if cheese is covered, but the key point is that zero-tolerance isn't the rigid game it is in the U.S., where regulators won't even disclose the number of organisms.

This is all important because all kinds of raw dairies have been temporarily shuttered over the past five years for listeria contamination, and to my knowledge, no illnesses have been reported. Same now with Estrella and Morningland. Yet the FDA and state agriculture and public health agencies refuse even to discuss the matter.

The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund is pursuing the matter of bogus listeria shutdowns in suits in New York state on behalf of raw dairy operator Chuck Phippen and in Missouri on behalf of Morningland Dairy. That seems to be the only way to have a discussion with the FDA.

One final note: a reader sent me a link to a 2007 article in Consumer Reports reporting that 83% of American broiler chickens are contaminated with campylobacter or salmonella. That was what CR allowed was "a stunning increase" from the 49% rate in 2003. Moreover, many of the pathogens sampled by CR showed antbiotic resistance.

I know, chickens are supposed to be cooked and cheese eaten as is. But supposing I want to eat my chicken rare or, heaven forbid, raw. Shouldn't the government be protecting us from such epidemic levels of contamination? Maybe we'd see action if the chickens were being fed raw dairy.?

Does anyone know how the FDA can function and not ever be accountable to the people.

They literally run themselves and never answer to anyone???

How can that be? Who do they report to?? The obvious answer is pharma and industry....but I do not buy this. There must be some mantle of innocence some modicum or appearance of a slivver of democracy!! Am I the fool....CP and Lykke tell me how it is? Why and how can they never ever answer to even the laws of the land. They must be sued to get an answer to anything...how did this morbid malignant monster get so powerful????

The USDA is so much different.

Mark

The FDA is currently headed by Dr. Margaret Hamburg, the Commissioner of Food and Drugs. The Commissioner reports to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius. Both positions are presidential appointments.

The Politics of Food by Marion Nestle is an instructive read for some insight on how the FDA works.

A glance at Marion Nestle's blog will show you that she's very much pro-FDA and government regulation. She's just another tax-eater, really, confident that all we need for a perfect world is the right laws administered by wise beaurocrats.

The FDA is part of the Department of Health and Human Services, which is a cabinet-level department and thus reports directly to President Obama. I'd like to think that if the president knew about the shenanigans the FDA is pulling with small food producers, he might inquire with some of the same questions and concerns that people have been asking here. I also sense, given the country's sour mood and frustration with overbearing government in general (the uprising about airport security just the latest example), he could score some political points by calling bureaucrats on the carpet. He did that during the BP oil spill, but that was an immediate crisis. Otherwise, he seems awfully passive and, in fact, seems, as Michael Bortnick observes about Marion Nestle, to crave ever more regulation.

David

Bill, David and etc.,

The point I was trying to make in posting that article about OV banning raw milk sales by their farmers is that this regulation goes into effect on January 1, 2011 and farmers are now down to the wire in deciding in which direction to move. Many farmers need both the income to OV and raw out of the tank to make a living. Where, for example, will this leave Wisconsin farmers like Kay and Wayne Craig who sell to OV and have a lawsuit pending regarding their raw milk sales? It's easy to discuss the OV decision back in May, but now its a whole different ball game. Where does that leave the OV farmers? And yes, I understand that S 510 is a big issue, and could change everything .

Maybe this is good time for other farmers to tell their stories of the last 6 months of OV, Im sure there are stories to tell. It would be interesting to know what happened to the million dollar grant. Ill bet it didnt go for higher milk price to the farmer.

OV is a little fickle....

I was a speaker at PASA years ago. When I was finished speaking, a group of Amishmen surrounded my wife Blaine and I and wanted to know more about raw milk and CA regs.

They said that they had been some of the members of OV that had voted to kick me out of the OV COOP.

George Simon is a founder and CEO of OV. He does not change much when confronted with challenging opportunities. In 2003 I offered a workable business model to OV to allow for national branding and distribution of Organic Raw Milk ( where legal ). The response was no response.

George is challenged by lots of fires under his butt...so I doubt that this kind of radical change will motivate him to move. When Organic Soymilk became a new member of the OV products...I knew that George was lost and the entire group was ignorant of central nutritional concepts.

I strongly suggest to any OV farmer that they should choose to become independent and connect directly with their local consumers.

A great opportunity rests in raw cheeses and minimally pasteurized probiotic organic yogurts with local seasonal flavors and natural sweetners like Maple and Fruits. Brag about all the probiotic values and how it rebuilds immunity.

If you want value for your products...you must speak to the consumers health. Damn the FDA and their threats of making a "new drug" with foods that heal. FInd a way arround that insane drug protection rule.

To become independent means to become free of the shackles of OV or Deans Foods and become connected to real people. This is radical...but truly liberating. Ask Ed Shank and me about this.

Mark

For what its worth, I cannot see supporting any legislative action that does anything but removes the barriers placed between farmers and their customers (or for that matter between any man and another engaging in constitutionally protected acts) that government has so rudely invented and implemented.

The hidden reality here is that rules such as these are a form of death by a thousand cuts. Undoubtedly it will be incumbent upon producers, for example, in classic bureaucratic guilty-until-proven-innocent manner, to demonstrate that they have not strayed off the prison yard by documenting that they have not sold their wares beyond a 275 mile limit, that half or more of their sales are direct (a term which simply cries for a thoughtful definition), and that they have not exceeded a certain dollar amount of sales. (Just wait, by the way, until the fed is finished inflating our currency.) And when those rules have been met there will surely be, as history instructs, even more daggers invented to jab into us.

As raw milk producers and their relations with OV come to a close, most that I know have shifted to Horizion who is making nice right now and offering to take the former OV farms on the trucks with the knowledge of direct raw milk distribution.
Many producers have asked for this acceptance by Horizion in writing but to no response to those requests by Horizon.
Horizon has signed contracts with the producers and most are getting ready to ship to Horizon or have started already.
I know of a large group of OV producers who had herdshares simply stop doing raw milk distribution via the herdshares and left the herdshare owners out in the cold.
I personally do not see Horizons pledge to look the other way lasting very long, given it is owned by Dean foods in the majority, and Deans Foods has always had a very hard line against raw milk distribution even in raw milk permited States.
You sell raw milk we will drop you, about as hard as it gets.
Demand is easing for organic milk, reorganization of the organic dairy industry is now in a new phase given the fact that most organic producers act just like conventional producers and once the restrictions were taken off in August everyone started milking everything they could to make up for lost income during the quotas.
My feeling is by late winter quotas will be back on, Horizion will have an excuse to drop raw milk producers given the soft market and contract terms(they own whats in the tank) and we will see a whole new group of producers looking for a home for the milk they use to distribute direct.
Remember the raw milk from direct distribution alters the representative history of milk production on the farm, so if the raw milk producers quit because of challanges to the direct distribution models and or sales because of contract terms with Horizon, a flood of milk enters the farms production models and they are given the conventional price for the excess over the production history.
So instead of getting 40 to $50.00 per hundred weight for the milk that use to go direct, they will now get 15.00 to $18.00 a hundred weight if the current prices hold, which it looks as if it may be near $13.00 by early spring.
So Horizons good will may come back to bite everyone who switched these past 3 months.
There is more than one way to ruin a farm, and more than one way to control markets.
If dairy farmers organic or not were not still hanging on by the finger nails, they would have more options.
But untill the consumers come forward with more support they have no other choice.
Tim Wightman

@ Michael B ~ Very true. That's why it's relevant and instructive. "Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster. If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or you may lose." Sun Tsu

David, I do concede that Bill Anderson might well know more about cheese that I. With respect to zero tolerance for Listeria, I also said this to Bill:

Re: Listeria and zero tolerance - I am only really against having enough Listeria in a product that someone can get sick from it. If there is a standard that is greater than zero, I am all for it.

As you know, I represented the family of the gentleman who died from consuming pasteurized milk that became contaminated during bottling. Listeria is a horrible way to die. I have also represented women who have lost fetuses. Certainly not pleasant either.

As you also know, the infective dose of Listeria varies with the strain and with the susceptibility of the victim. Fewer than 1,000 total organisms may cause disease. So, is zero tolerance at manufacture too low? It may well be.

I am working on a paper now regarding the 60 day rule on cheese, I'll keep looking for more information on tolerance as well.

Re 510 - I understand that you are fearful of the FDA and government generally. I have been working hard to get the Tester Amendment inserted into s 510. Here is where I think things stand now - http://www.marlerblog.com/lawyer-oped/tester-amendment-to-allow-fda-oversight-on-farm-sales-to-wholesalers/

Hoping you and readers a happy and well cooked Thanksgiving.

David, for a bit(e) of levity, you might like this:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/william-marler/senator-coburn-weve-got-t_b_786457.html

I was shocked when Sen Coburn used as one of his reasons for not passing S. 510 is that the legal system (me) is there to hold business accountable. I guess he did not get the T-shirt I passed out last year:

http://www.marlerblog.com/lawyer-oped/put-a-trial-lawyer-out-of-business-t-shirts-being-delivered-to-the-senate-today/

There are many controls on food quality and safety:

1. Insurance companies will not renew with a loss run
2. Bill Marler will eat your lunch...litigation and liability
3. People will choose not to eat your brand of raw milk or food if it has a safety issue
4. Regulations and testing protocols....an on farm food safety program.

The least effective means to make food safe is regulation....it is somewhat effective but it is least effective.

The most effective is a moral and ethical farmer that really does care about the health of their well connected consumers that they know.

Insurance and liability play a huge roll in the disfunctional CAFO, Blame Game, Kill Step, Dead Food culture of American food safety.

SB 510 is here because Corporations lack morals or ethics. Corporations do things that people would never do. CEO's of these corporations are paid ( massive amounts ) to do things that normal moral people would never do. Corporations roboticly serve the profit drivers....not humans.

SB 510 is with us because Corporations can capture all the little players and make sure that all the milk in America ends up going through their processing plants and HACCP Kill Steps...

SB 510 is with us because America no longer has an idea who produces their food or where it comes from.

The USDA says....Get to Know Your Farmer and Get to Know Your Food....they also say...Every Family Needs a Farmer.

You do not see the USDA jumping through hoops to pass SB 510. It is all about FOOD INC and the FDA cronnies.

If it passes and the FDA treats the small farmer poorly.....there will be a citizens farmers market upheaval.

Mark

Mark,
It will take awhile for me to let my guard down regarding USDA -
in light of the Mad Sheep episode, the shove NAIS down your throats debacle,
the mad cow ineptitude, and the chronic issues with inhumane video leaks coming out of USDA sanctioned slaughter plants...
trust is easily lost and hard to regain.

that said, I welcome a turnaround! I can dream of nothing better than the idea that they are sincere about this new direction. I cannot embrace it without some caution and skepticism. My butt remains covered for now, but I'm not opposed to giving them a chance.

Bill Marler,
Thanks for a lighter and more balanced post. I remain guarded, but
I appreciate your effort. It renews my ability to fight to maintain some open mindedness.

Zero-tolerance people:
Have you given your children their chlorox enemas today? We know that the poop chute is chronically contaminated with e coli, so it's important to cleanse cleanse cleanse at all costs!
Don't forget to gargle with acid to burn away those germs,
Scrub for 1 minute to the tune of rub a dub dub with your anti bacterial soap...
Don't go out in public without your latest test results proving no pathogens from your last home test...
Good Americans are Sterile Americans!

Bill Marler,
Thanks for the clarification on listeria. I missed your statement explaining your flexibility.

On Tester-Hagan, nice to see you and the Weston A. Price Foundation on the same side of an issue. That has to be a first.

As for the "put a trial lawyer out of business" t-shirt, congrats once again on brilliant promo. Reminds me of how many accountants, after the complex Bush tax cuts were passed, referred to them as the "full employment accountant act." I'm sure S 510 will provide similar benefits to lawyers. A legislature full of attorney would never harm one of its own.

David

I too fear I have fallen into an alternative universe - agreeing with WAPF and Mark on the same day.

Re S 510 - I actually do believe IF there is funding for inspections of the facilities that poison the majority of people AND funding for better surveillance by CDC, I expect FBI number to continue to go down. There are only a handful of House and Senate members (even those that are lawyers) who actually like fellows like me.

Marketing? I am commenting on the blog of a marketing master. Tip o' the pen to you. You are the messiah of raw milk and cheese.

SMY,

I must agree with your assessment of the USDA ( really goes with any alphabet soup gov agency )...but on the surface at least there appears to be a soil to soul softening of the culture at the USDA. They have a garden at the USDA and the USDA outreach personnel preach organics quite a bit. The USDA people that I know really do care and really do have dirt on their boots.

Lincoln named the USDA "the peoples department".....I am sure that Michele Obama has had something to do with this consumer-farmer and soil-re-connection initiative.

I have a name for the FDA but it can not be posted in mixed PG13 company.

Mark

Tim, Barney,

I wish there was a solution to the pending OV decision.

If I had the money, I would move back to Wisconsin to start making artisan raw milk cheese from the excess milk of the farms OV is dropping. I am a licensed Wisconsin cheese maker, after all.

And Tim is right, Horizon (being a subsidiary of Deans) is likely to take the same stance as OV within the near future.

It is a frustrating situation. I was supposed to be Scott Trautman's cheese maker, but then the state denied him a dairy farm license so we couldn't ship his milk to a cheese plant. That is part of the reason why I'm in Ohio right now.

Tim, Your insights into OV are so correct!

My impression is that Horizon " balances their milk supplies" through ups and downs by dropping or picking up little farmers. How does that feel.

Ok, if you like vertigo, nausea and being treated used like a basketball. That is what happend to OPDC when we went to Horizon after CROPP OV dropped us. Horizon needed us and then they did not need us...it was a crap shoot. We even did open market for a while....that was really interesting.

If you want to get into raw milk you need to do the following:

1.Make lots of great cheese and then...

2.Phase into bottling raw milk.

You will need to be able to survive and balance your own milk supplies as you grow. Little by little you will run short of milk to make cheese. That is exactly what happened to OPDC. If you bust your backside teaching and teaching and outreach... teaching...the same will happen to you. It does help to have 36 million people ( and a few with an open mind ) living within 350 miles of you.

I do expect that organic milk may become short by next summer because of the pasture rule in July 2011.

Bill, I always thought you were a great guy. I just do not like who you hang with. The CAFO PMO FDA Sterile Food processor guys really do not connect with the people at all. They live in a "rarified air" DC environment with FOOD INC revolving door morals that I detest.

At least you grew up on raw milk and live on the west coast!!
Happy thanks giving to you and peace on earth.

Mark

On the day that all the planets align, maybe everyone can agree on national raw milk safety standards.

cp

"and the moon is in the seventh house ....."

"and Jupiter aligns with Mars"

Mark & Bill Anderson...and All..

Speaking of the organic pasture rule, the word on the fence row is that Horizon lost three truck loads worth of milk per week this summer in western ohio and eastern indiana when they dropped farms due to the pasture rule.
They are depsperatly trying to fill those routes right now, mostly with direct raw milk distribution farms.

As for national standards on raw milk, if it was easy it would have been done long ago.
There should be a strong draft for review by years end.
We will keep you posted.

Farmertim

Barney, we have left OV and were able to avoid Horizon (untrustworthy corporate). Our new processor makes cheese so doesn't even mind our seasonal production model. We are so disappointed with OV. Went to a couple regional meetings this summer and 80% of producer attendees were not supportive of new raw milk policy. This is all top down, there is no grass roots support for it.

Marler, the politicians may not like you, but they do as they are told when the Trial Lawyers open their wallets.

This S510 bill reminds me of Obamacare, it seems no matter what the people want we are going to get stuck with way more government than we want or need. David did not talk about it in his post, but have any of you seen some of the language in this bill. Such vague language and all encompassing powers to be given to faceless bureaucrats. And now I see that Big Ag says they won't support it unless the small farm exemptions are removed.

Makes civil disobedience seem to be the only logical choice.

May everyone have a nutrient dense Thanksgiving and be thankful for the freedoms our Constitution says we still have in this country.

What is the "pasture rule?"

"and Jupiter aligns with Mars"

And raw milk and all it's raw products would be freely available to anyone who wants them everywhere without legal threats, harrasment etc.

Maybe some of you have already seen this. If not, here's how your elected officials voted on s510 and how much they got paid.

http://ppjg.wordpress.com/2010/11/19/what-senators-got-paid-off-to-support-s-510-the-food-safety-modernization-act/#more-13624

Poor Lykke. So nutritionally deprived and unaware of REAL food issues, with being so entwined in the mind-control system of dead CAFO industrial agri-business sterile foods, s/he has no idea what we are talking about!

Lykke- The Organic standards have finally been revised to include a requirement that (gasp!) all cows get a certain percentage of their diet from pasture. What a radical idea! One is left to wonder how cows survived for so many thousands of years without corn silage, heavy amounts of grain to push production, and scientifically formulated TMR's (total mixed rations).

I believe the new organic requirement is 30% of their diet from pasture, and it takes effect next year... don't quote me on those figures. A small victory, but it will drive the worst of the corporate "organic" CAFOs out of the organic market and back into conventional.

Bill A.,

You have bad vibrations - I think you better check the authenticity of the rawness of the milk you're drinking right now.

Lykke,

I will be kinder and a little more loving to you...

The USDA organic pasture rule takes effect on July 1st 2011 and mandates that all USDA certified organic milk come from cows that recieve at least 30% of their "dry matter" intake from pasture or grass at least 120 days per year. I think that I got all the critical parts quoted...

In the past the USDA stated that organic cows needed to have access to pasture....this was a very weak reg and allowed CAFO organic operations to use an openable gate to a very small green spot to comply. The original intent of pasture rules was to have a change in the nutrition of the milk and a natural set of conditions for the cows. Horizons easy milk supply is drying up with this integrity issue now coming down on them.

Bill....the Alternative Universe welcomes you with open arms. Life in the alternative universe is really good ( at least between the struggles ). No depressed immune systems, green pastures, lots of earthworms in our soils, asthma rates are really low and getting lower all the time, IBS is gone, biabetes is rare, obesity is non existent, antibiotics still work when needed, antibiotics are hardly ever needed, cancer rates are dropping, ear infections in kids are practically non existent...people have immunity to most pathogens and do not get sick from them like the immune depressed people do, people have healthy kids and we are fertile... And lawyers work to protect the farmers from the abuses of the FDA, CAFO operators and FDA drug pushers.

Money aside ( you already have most of the Federal Reserve in your Swiss bank accounts already )....in the bigger universe of good Karma....you are a fighter for kids and good. We need you to take up the fight against the sources and real causes of Super-Bug creation, antibiotic resistence and immune depression. That means you should move out to the alternative universe and join our ranks (at least once in a while Pro Bono ). We must partner with nature...she is brutally honest with all that live on earth. There are few free passes and all karma is counted. Human Life on earth will cease if we try and replace natural systems with synthetic artificial dead systems. The survivors will be the bacteria.... eating our dead bones all the way.

Mark

Breaking News at Bravo Farms...all cheeses have been recalled.

CDFA found listeria in their tests and now all cheeses are being recalled not just cheese with suspected Ecoli.

This is going to hurt a wonderful, cheese, family and business....

http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm234691.htm

I have said this many time before....when FDA PMO rules are applied to raw milk cheeses over time these fixed rules will fail. Antibiotics, CAFO conditions cause changes in common PMO sources of pathogenic bacteria and the NEW emerging bigger badder bacteria did not get the memo that they were supposed to die after 60 days of aging. They instead took this as yet another challenge to overcome....and they did. The FDA PMO has not evolved to address these issues of raw milk sourcing for raw milk cheeses. The idea of the FDA trying to figuer out mother nature and working with her is beyond their world view.

We have been given some insider information to expect a visit from some alphabet soup food safety people very soon to look at OPDC raw cheeses.

The visit will be very quick...we have nothing in inventory. We have sold out of cheese and we have none to sell or test. Our raw milk sales have out stripped our supply of raw milk and our raw milk goes for bottling first....cheese comes a distance 4th place behind raw cream and raw butter orders.

What an interesting new world we live in....North Korean is blasting South Korea, China is the new happening place, America is jobless, raw milk sales are screaming, ....bacteria changing quickly and are kicking ass on "Kill Steps".

SB 510 is about to make it even worse.

Mark

Let me preface, I am not trying to start a fight.

Mark, re Bravo E. coli outbreak and now Listeria issue, if they had used raw milk from OP or Claravale, do you think they would have had the same issues?

The commercial freeze-dried monocultures used as cheese starters in most modern cheese plants lack the vitality of a traditional bulk starter or whey starter culture, which can more effectively suppress pathogen growth than the modern monocultures.

Sister Noella Marcellino (aka "the cheese nun") has a phd in microbiology and is a raw milk cheese maker on the east coast. She did a study on the raw milk cheese her abbey makes, in which she intentionally inoculated the cheese milk with E. Coli. At the time, they were being forced by FDA to use a sterile stainless steal cheese vat, but they wanted to prove the safety of their traditional wooden barrel.

She found that the cheese made in the wooden barrel caused the death of E. Coli because of the diverse micro-flora the wood harbored. The beneficial bacteria living in the wood inoculated the cheese milk and suppressed the E. Coli! However, the cheese made in the stainless steel caused the proliferation of E. Coli.

This is another problem with most modern raw milk cheese making -- they are still using sterile equipment and pure monoculture cheese starters.

The quality of the milk is only part of the equation!

Some questions about Bravo:

Was the listeria actually found in the cheese itself? Or only in the dairy processing environment? (Listeria is present in virtually all dairy processing environments if you look hard enough, regardless of whether they make raw or pasteurized products.)

Do we know whether this was real raw milk cheese or made from heat-treated milk?

http://www.nature.com/news/2010/101124/full/468492a.html

Ive included below a few excerpts from the above article entitled, Microbiology: The new germ theory

An infant's first exposure to microbes is at birth, as it slides out of the sterile womb, slurping up and smearing itself with its mother's vaginal fluids and faeces. From then on, life is one long microbial onslaught. New bacteria, viruses and fungi colonize every exposed organ skin, eyes, lungs, gastrointestinal (GI) tract. But until the past decade, scientists' ability to explore these microbes en masse was hindered by historical, cultural and technological obstacles. Ever since Robert Koch advanced the germ theory of disease in the late nineteenth century, clinical microbiologists have been fixated on foreign pathogens such as Salmonella, Ebolavirus and Yersinia pestis identifying them, growing them in isolation and determining their causal relationship with disease. Everything else living on or in the body was often dismissed as pretty inconsequential when it came to human health.

The constant communication that goes on between human cells and their microbial inhabitants adds a whole extra layer of complexity.

"It's a lot less clear with the Human Microbiome Project what the finish line will be," says Fraser-Liggett. "For the Human Genome Project, it was to create high-quality draft sequence for one human genome. Here, given the complexity of these communities, we're not so sanguine that we think we can yet define an endpoint." With so much diversity, "it seems like a black hole that may go on forever, which makes some of the funding agencies cringe", she says.

In reference to the medical communities fixation on pathogens David Relman of Stanford University in California, sums it up well "They're sucked towards pathogens, and they have practical questions to deal with in the clinical workplace. They're not in need of more diversity." But that has to change, he says. "We have to get away from this monolithic, one-dimensional perspective of a one-bug-one-disease picture of health.

Ken Conrad

Bill Anderson, ( there is more than one Bill posting here ),

Your questions and comments are awesome!!!

I would like to know all of that myself. According to Bravo owner....the cheeses are truly raw meaning that they are not thermalized. That is how they are promoted and marketed in the Fresno Area. I have no reason to believe that information is not true.

Question for you....I agree with your comment that the quality of the source of raw milk is important but only a subpart of the entire food safety pathogen equation. The temperatures and the containers ( residual cultures etc ) used and the intentional innoculum cultures used are critical to the rest of the story.

At OPDC we use our own milk which is arguably some of the most tested and pathogen free milk produced anywhere....but we also place all of our pressed cheese curds into vacuum sealed plastic bags to age the required 60 days. Bravo and other cheese companies use an open air exposure aging system.

Do you think this plays or can play a part in the listeria or ecoli issue??? It has me wondering??

The biology and chemistry of a sealed closed plastic air tight bag is entirely different than an open air system that has growth ( traditionally this is all good ) on the surface of the cheese. Any ideas on this??

We were taught by Marino Gonzalez of Fascalini Cheese fame in Modesto CA to make our raw milk cheddar cheese. Fascalini uses raw milk cheese from a source very similiar to Bravo. No grass feeding, all conventional CAFO system raw milk but they have had a excellent safety history with international success with first place wins in EU. California Gold Cheddar is their flag ship and it is awesome.

http://fiscalinicheese.com/

Bill Marler....you make a good point. I do not know what caused Bravo to have such a double whammy recall and what has put out the welcome mat to some very unwelcome visitors. I know that when the FDA and CDFA and DHS tested and inspected our cheeses in 2004 and 2005 they checked twice, because they could not find any listeria in the drains or anywhere and thought they had for sure made an error someplace. They did say that they nearly always find listeria in the drains of pasteurized milk plants. They did complain to us that things needed to be cleaner...they did not like the way we kept the floors covered with some amount of raw milk and how we refused to deeply clean it. I have always demanded that all the cracks in the tiles adn floors have some kefir grain solution or raw milk kept in them.

Bingo!!!

To this day I always make sure that we spread some Raw Milk Kefir cultures on the surfaces of our filler room floors and the cheese plant as well. We are clean...but never attempt to be sterile. We intentionally assure that lactobaccillus is alive and well in our creamery ecosystem.

To this day...we have never found a listeria in our environmental tests or even in our drains.

It is not all about what you can kill...it is all about what you can grow.

Dr. Ron Hull in 2008 showed me his Australian studies that showed that 66% of Australian pasteurized milk creameries had a positive listeria test from some place in their creameries or drains. He said that with friendly lactobaccillus acidifying bacteria in residence that psuedamonas do not grow well and they are the indicator for the next step of bacteria which include the listeria family. There is a definite heirarchy.

So...add some raw milk and Kefir to your drains and floors...but keep everything clean and neat. Clean means good bacteria are alive and well. No quats used in cleaning!!

Just exactly like in your own GUT!!

Mark

http://johnbuntingsjournal.blogspot.com/2010/11/farming-systems.html

Take a look at the graph at John Bunting's blog.It shows that while calving interval for dairy cows has increased from a little under 13 months to well over 15 months the cull rate at 48 months of age has gone from 20% to 40% ! These are the real indicators that show that cow welfare has decreased as confinement and high grain feeding leading to higher production has been adopted by the dairy industry.If these trends continue the end is not far ahead,maybe it is at hand.

Dairy farmers aren't stupid.They are looking for the answer.Learning to make cheese from raw milk is the first step towards freeing themselves from the control of processors and grocers.Cheese is a way to preserve the extra milk and to slowly ease into supplying raw milk directly to people.The Dairy Industry is trying to intimidate farmers away from taking steps toward independence.But the Dairy Industry's BIG problem is that these trends in cow welfare point to an unavoidable end to the Industry.I guess they don't see the BIG problem like the farmers do because they don't live with the cows and see how the pressure to keep the milk price down affects the cows.

Read the whole report here:"Scientific Report on the effects of farming systems on dairy cow welfare and disease."

http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/scdocs/doc/1143r.pdf

Is the FDA attack on raw milk all about pathogen risk? I don't think so. It's a red herring. The elephant in the room is that pasteurizing is necessary to keep milk from turning rancid once it is homogenized, and homogenization is foundational to the modern dairy industry. I've drawn this argument out in my current article at www.ftcldf.org, which takes as its starting point the USDA's reported support of greater cheese production, even as it warns about "dangers" of eating too much of it. Cheese is serious!

"I've been wondering, why does one part of the USDA promote cheese consumption while another says it's an unhealthy source of too much fat? As I ponder, I assume USDA has thought about the conflict at a policy level (maybe too generous, but safer than assuming they don't think), and I imagine the decision: "Hell, promoting more cheese on pizzas means megabucks to big dairy, so go for it. Never mind the health impacts which we also warn about, since anyone eating this kind of cheese-thick food won't change their behavior anyway. Sure, foodies will jump on us for the conflict, but that noise will blow over and the megabucks will still roll in for the industry." ....... http://www.ftcldf.org/cheese-is-serious-bemis.htm

I doubt the 38 people with illness from E. coli O157:H7 consider themselves "red herrings." They might even be thankful if FDA (or better yet, the raw milk cheese industry) did something to improve the safety of these products.

http://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/2010/cheese0157/index.html

Lykee,

While it's definitely sad that these '38' people have been sickened by ecoli.... the idea that government efforts could bring that number to zero is a not realistic. Well maybe it could be if every single thing that people put in their mouths is sterilized...but the health implications of that, for the entire population, would be far greater than the sickness of a small handful.

Those 38 people are no reason to eliminate raw milk availability. The FDA does not take this approach with ANY other foodstuff. It should be obvious when you consider the amount of people that are sickened by other foods, and the reaction of government agencies to those food producers. Was there talk of banning eggs this year...or eliminating the opportunity for people to eat peanuts, hamburger, tomatoes? No.

There is no perfect food supply...at least one that is worthwhile for the health of the population. And the idea that raw milk is more dangerous doesn't jive with the numbers. Why aren't they cracking down on cold cuts, hamburger or other foods that are sickening countless more people on an annual basis. You know the reason why.... and it's the same reason why they are striving to eliminate raw milk availability.... $money$

Lykke

The answer as to why some people become ill and others do not will continue to evade you if you fail to get away from this monolithic, one-dimensional perspective of a one-bug-one-disease picture of health.

Ken Conrad

Ken,

So what's the answer? If you have a prevention recommendation for people consuming contamined food, please share. I agree that there are host factors that lead to disease, but most are still undefined and do not translate into something you can use to advise the consumer. There are a few well-described examples where the host is at obvious increased risk such as HIV infection or other immune-compromising conditions, but what recommendation do you have for them other than avoiding risky foods, or just letting them get sick and suffer? Also, what about the many examples of healthy people that avoid processed foods, but when they ingest a foodborne pathogen they become ill? Some of the most severe raw milk-related illnesses have been among people fitting this description. IMHO, until there is a better understanding of the host mechansisms and how to mediate them, the only logical approach to food safety is to strive to keep pathogens from entering the food chain. I don't agree that food producers should ignore or dismiss the people who get sick because other people ate the same food and didn't get sick. That borders on eugenics since you cannot even identify or predict which consumer will be the one who is susceptible to illness if exposed to a pathogen in the food.

Lykke,

How about "Please boil this milk or heat this cheese to 200 deg F before consuming."Would you be satisfied with that?

Lykke,

The campaign against raw milk and other living foods is not about safety....and the only 'prevention' tbtb are concerned with is the prevention of access. The crackdown on raw milk has not been limited to those that have supposedly made someone sick... and when you compare raw milk to other foods, it is as safe as many...even safer than some...after all how many people have died from raw milk in the last 25 years...none. Can't be said for hamburger, spinach or other foods.

The FACT is, despite what the FDA says, citizens DO have an inherent right to choose what they put in their bodies...and the government has NO right to limit that choice...especially when they are obviously doing it for the benefit of the large corporations...at the expense of the health of those who know what raw milk can really do.

I can smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, gorge on twinkies and coke, and happy meal myself into the grave (with the blessings of government)...but I'm made to feel like a criminal if I want to drink raw milk. Please. You embarrass yourself by ignoring the reality of the way raw milk is singled out, and treated differently.

"Why aren't they cracking down on cold cuts, hamburger or other foods that are sickening countless more people on an annual basis."

I believe this question has been asked numerous times, the only answer I've seen is money.... otherwise, it is ignored.

"that pasteurizing is necessary to keep milk from turning rancid once it is homogenized, and homogenization is foundational to the modern dairy industry."

Steve, I was under the assumption (yes, I know what it is to assume things) that if you were to consume boiled milk, get the un-homogenized variety-as it is somewhat healthier than the homogenized/pasteurized dairy. I noticed that with Strauss brand; the cream line used to be @ 1 to 1.5 inches in the quart bottle, now it's hard to find. Another disappointment from the dairy industry. Strauss is the brand I use when raw milk is sold out.

miguel,

Heat treatment is fine for those who don't care about consuming milk in its raw, "natural" state. For those who prefer raw milk products, there is a need to address the pathogen contamination issue. Michael Schmidt put forward an approach worthy of serious consideration by the public health and raw milk communities. The OPDC RAMP implemented after raw milk-related illnesses may offer similar benefits for commercial production in the US. All of that seems more important in these discussions than suggesting raw milk is always dangerous or always safe.

milk farmer,

How did my comment embarrass myself or even relate to raw milk being singled out? I think Ken Conrad was making generalizations about the host-pathogen-environment continuum (not specific to raw milk), and my questions were similarly general with regard to keeping pathogens out of the food chain in lieu of having a different approach for those susceptible to foodborne illness when exposed to a pathogen.

Sylvia,

There are extensive regulations relating to cold cuts and deli meats. These products are regulated under the authority of USDA FSIS and violations result in recalls every year. Some of these recalls are very large, some small; some include illnesses, some are never associated with illnesses.

Regarding food regulations, here's a new one (are San Franciscans food fascists?)

San Francisco Bans The Happy Meal

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/02/san-francisco-happy-meal-ban-mcdonalds_n_777939.html

A major Dairy Industry magazine reported that fluid pasteurized milk consumption is dropping at 9.8% per year.

Mark

Sylvia - I agree with you - I too will drink only un-homogenized milk if I run out of raw and have to drink pasteurized.

Lykke - I agree that it's worse than insensitive to make those who may become sick into examples for arguments, rather than to try to fix fundamental issues in public sale situations, as OPDC and Claravale appear to have done (or, for heaven's sake, let people choose what they want to eat in private transactions). My argument (http://www.ftcldf.org), which you prove by arguing cases, is that the drumbeat of emphasis on occasional illness serves to obscure (better than "red herring"?) powerful economic pressures which stifle constructive dialogue.

The 9% annual decline in fluid pasteurized milk consumption is actually great news. It was more than 13% a couple of years ago. It is interesting to note that the living foods like cheese and yogurts are the market sectors showing growth.

Mark

Lykke,

Those lunch meats may be regulated (which probably is a farce on paper) They are NOT shut down and persecuted like the raw dairies. Why is that? Why are they still in business? Why doesn't the govt spew out the high contamination and lethal pathogens on these lunch meats and that they can kill your unborn baby? Why doesn't the govt ensure that ALL Americans know the horrible hazards of consuming these lunch meats? The only answer is money... who whored themselves out...Hard to have any respect for any entity that does that.

"for heaven's sake, let people choose what they want to eat in private transactions). "

What a concept.

Sylvia,

I dont believe raw milk would be an issue at all if it wasnt given to children. If only adults consumed it, I doubt anyone would give a damn.

cp

cp,

I believe that you are totally wrong with your assertion. The crackdown on raw milk doesn't have a thing to do with 'children'. What it does have to do with is maintaining the profits of the dead milk cartels...these are the folks that use that revolving door and go from private industry to public office, chasing money at every turn. I contend that if dead milk consumption was increasing in this country, those that have a monopoly on the supply 'wouldn't give a damn'...fact is Big Milk is losing market share, and they see their gravy train threatened by real food.

If raw milk farmers were treated with the same respect that large commercial food suppliers are, especially when there is a problem, there would be more credence in the arguments that the dead milk proponents make. Fact is they are not. The goal of the authorities, EVERYTIME a raw milk farm is persecuted, is to shut down the farm...one way or another. How can anyone see otherwise. They have figured out recently that they can use the 'listeria bludgeon' to quash raw milk cheese producers. Why else would they be confiscating entire inventories, and not making the slightest attempt to 'work with' these producers.

CP & Lykke,

The difference between the raw milk debate and cold cuts is simple. Nowhere in the government's documentation is there a mandate to increase the number of states that ban the sale of lunch meat. It's pure and simple: despite the fact that countless more people are sickened and actually DIE from the contamination of lunch meat, there is NO effort whatsoever to ban it entirely. It's a farce -- if it were about safety, then the "all knowing" bureaucrats would have actually attack the foods that make people sick and die. It's not about safety, it's about control and profit.

Take for example my local government who just installed "safety" cameras at a heated intersection where people constantly run red lights (they run the lights because the backup on the lower traffic side is 4 minutes per light, and when you actually get the green, only 3 cars can make it through before the yellow hits. The local government claims it's for safety. BULLSHIT. They mail tickets to people for REVENUE!!!! If it were about safety (and not profit/revenue) they could simply extend the yellow lights in each direction and make a pause between the time the light turns green from red.

As soon as the simpletons out there figure out it's not really about safety, then we can have a real conversation. Let's not be disingenuous folks, seriously.

Alice

You have an organization that promotes the use of raw milk to infants and children, the population with the most underdeveloped immune systems, as a food that will boost their immune systems and cure asthma, allergies, autism, and ADHD. Somewhere between 1-3% of the population drinks raw milk and when there is an outbreak the majority of victims are children.

If you all choose to gloss over these facts and only blame big dairy because you believe it is an economic issue or the government because they are in the back pocket of big dairy, then I believe you miss the big picture of what drives this issue. Lets think about this logically. 1-3% of the population drinks raw milk. This percentage is a threat to big dairy? That is like saying farmers markets are a threat to the produce industry.

When OPDC raw milk was sold at Whole Foods Market in California, it sat on the shelves near the Strauss brand milk. http://strausfamilycreamery.com/?section=Farm%20Practices
This milk is produced by a family owned business. It is pasteurized but not homogenized and it is sold in glass bottles. Their inventory on the shelves was a little larger than OPDC raw milk. Is big dairy trying to shut down the Strauss Dairy because they are a financial threat?

Public heath at the academic level and the AMA drive this issue. It is not financial. It is about safety. Bill Marler was just quoted in the article http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6AO2GE20101125

You can absolutely do the best you can in producing raw milk, but because of the location of the cow's anus to the cow's udder, it makes it really difficult for the bacteria not to get into the milk," said Marler. "You can't tell a cow not to poop when it gets milked."

I think the sums up the crux of this issue quite well. Maybe it is time someone invented cow diapers.

Lykke

Let me continue to generalize.

If we approach this issue with an honest assessment of the facts then neither of us can predict with any degree of certainty who will become the next victim. Good luck in your attempt to strive to keep pathogens from entering the food chain.

With over fifty years of personal experience consuming raw milk in its various forms without ill affect it is very difficult for me to accept that raw milk is as problematic as you claim it to be.

Max Planck stated that, Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are part of nature and therefore part of the mystery that we are trying to solve.

You may think that the germ theory vilifies your belief. From my perspective however and despite the fact that although there may be a degree of truth to the theory it none the less leaves me with many unanswered questions. Unfortunately the theory due to our controlling nature has nurtured a destructive, militaristic, shot gun hit and miss, methodology which in the end, causes us more harm then good.

The best prevention in my view is to develop a better understanding of what goes on in nature and work with it, rather then forcefully manipulate natural process and the rights of human beings based on a smidgen of presumed knowledge.

To paraphrase Albert Einstein, Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust (including organisms) we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible player.

Ken Conrad

Lykke,

Contrary to majority opinion the relationship between bacterial balance and wellness, especially in the gut, is not completely opaque to medical practitioners. A shining example concerns the development and management of clostridium difficile infection, which all but the worst doctors know can be caused by antibiotic use, including, ironically, the same antibiotics used to treat c-diff itself.

The mechanism is simple: normal gut flora balance is altered by antibiotics, leading to openings for ubiquitous bacteria that are otherwise innocuous to suddenly become pathogenic. (Important to know also is that pharmacologic antibiotics are not the only way to create out-of-balance gut bacteria. Avoidance of live foods, or ingesting disinfectants as might happen by swallowing a bit of pool water or perhaps some residual food processing chemicals, could be causal as well.)

Unfortunately for the population at large, while our medical community accepts the causal mechanism of c-diff in its specifics, they have been maddening slow to accept the mechanisms implications for developing infectious disease generally. (Understandable, since the financial health of several massive industries---big-ag, medicine, and regulation---depend upon ignoring it.) What else but money could cause a health industry to down-play the immune compromise that results from poor soil, poor animal health, C-sections, toxic overload, and so on, while promoting prophylactic antibiotics and sterilized food?

Sterilized food is contaminated in effect, and if a sterilizing agent finds its way into food, it is directly so. This is not a recipe for health.

Steve,

Re your recent FTCLDF article:

Well done! Indeed you did not present new information, but you surely did in a new way, and in our perception-is-reality world, right ideas have not a chance if not properly framed. You put the pieces together like a good lawyer. Nice to see a lawyer do good well.