Good Fun About Rawesome and Raw Milk on Colbert--Too Bad Real Life Can't Be So Much Fun As Standoff Arises in MO
There was a very cute "report" on the Rawesome Food Club raid and raw milk on The Colbert Report. It's a comedy show, so they had to make it sound funny--out-of-control government, chuckle-chuckle on the "Raw"--but the seriousness did come through when they showed the actual footage of the raiders with their guns drawn June 30. Hard to escape reality.
I'll give David Acheson, the former head of food safety at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, credit for being the straight man in allowing himself to be interviewed, and skewered.
The good news about the segment was that the government June 30 raid footage was finally shown to a national audience. (Huge numbers of people get their "news" from this and "The Daily Show", another comedy news show.) The establishment media, of course, shy away from such stuff.
The segment also did good by presenting the raw milk issue as a matter of rights ("Pasteurization without representation," as Rep. Ron Paul stated) and the best line of the segment, in my judgment, went to James Stewart of Rawesome when he said, "It's my right to get dysentery if I choose to." Sounds crazy, but we do have the right to consume foods that damage our liver (alcohol), kidneys (highly salted snack and other foods), and pancreas (the many high-sugar foods).
Unfortunately, the show couldn't examine the followup problems that I described briefly in my previous post. I think Tim Wightman has the right idea about The State's intentions in a raid, in his comment following my previous post. But the effects are increasingly to make life miserable for suppliers caught up in the dragnet via the follow-on harassment and heavy-handed techniques.
My sense is that consumers are ever more prepared to continue buying from producers who have been targeted. Some of those producers simply duck under the radar and go their way to quietly supply customers. From what I'm told, Rawesome Food Club has seen its membership climb since the June 30 guns-drawn raid. That has to scare the authorities, because if consumers won't be scared off by goons with drawn guns in their food outlet, then what will they be scared off by?
But it's the drip-drip-drip of the follow-on harassment that can be the undoing of suppliers. That seems to be the case with Morningland Dairy. I've since gained access to some of the documentation in that situation, and it appears Morningland Dairy, the cheese producer unfortunate enough to have its cheese seized in the June 30 raid and discovered by California agriculture authorities to contain listeria. (Milky Way is correct that the amount of listeria identified by authorities wasn't revealed; I assumed it was a trace amount, since no one has gotten sick from that cheese, this year, or in thirty years of company operations; presumably something more than a trace would have made at least one of the hundreds, or perhaps thousands, who ingested it sick.)
The correspondence between the Missouri Milk Board and Morningland Dairy suggests there is a huge dispute about additional testing that was done on the company's cheese at a private lab in Missouri--testing in addition to that conducted by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. (I have the correspondence in a number of pieces, so am not immediately able to make it available on the blog.) But essentially, the state says it supervised tests of 14 samples of the company's cheese in late August, and found listeria monocytogenes in six of the samples, and staphylococcus aureleus (a bacteria that can cause staph infections) in all the samples.
The company says the samples were independently and improperly provided by one of its employees--who had just come from a hospital setting and hadn't washed--without regulator involvement and oversight, as required in such situations. In other words, little if any attention was given to the kinds of matters Ron Klein describes in his comment on my previous post.
Morningland points out that a subsequent thorough inspection of its premises by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found no evidence of pathogens of any sort, but its efforts to convince the Missouri Milk Board to re-do the tests on its packaged and unpackaged inventory have been unavailing.
With the U.S. Food and Drug Administration obviously leaning heavily on the Missouri Milk Board, the agency is demanding that the company destroy all cheese produced since the start of the year--about 50,000 pounds, or $250,000 worth--"because of the serious nature of the pathogens present in the embargoed cheese products..." I say the FDA must be leaning on the agency because we haven't seen such draconian measures in other food recalls where not a single person has become ill.
In a letter of "objection" to the Missouri Milk Board, the company states, "To date, there has been no legitimate test performed on Morningland Dairy cheese, although Morningland Dairy owners have repeatedly requested that proper tests be done. California authorities did not sign the test they allegedly performed until 55 days after product was seized at gunpoint from Rawesome Foods. No sample of said product was shared with Morningland Dairy as is required by California and Missouri statutes; therefore, there is no confirmation of the findings reported by the California Department of Food and Agriculture."
Morningland Dairy officials indicate they are not going to take the order lying down. "Because of the untenable nature of the order of destruction, we cannot comply..."
They offer a compromise, an "offer to test each batch of cheese in our cooler prior to shipping the product to our customers." Seems reasonable, especially as they note, "it is far from a light matter to put families out of work and out of business when no harm has occurred to anyone in a thiry-year history..."
They add: "At this point, Oct. 6, 2010, we have been required to recall six months of work, have been completely shut down and forced to dump milk for nearly five weeks, are being told we must destroy at least eight months of work. Further, we have no assurance that we will be allowed to continue to produce our product without subjection to overzealous enforcement actions on the part of the FDA or the Missouri Milk Board. We seek justice, reason, logic and decency, and we desire to live peaceably and to profit from our labor. Due process is inherent in our system, and we request that it be followed."
Reason? Logic? Decency? Due process? That's asking a lot from regulators fighting their version of a holy war against producers of nutrient-dense food.
One final note: There is mention ?in a comment following my previous post about accusations being made by the people running Rawesome Food Club as to the integrity of its food. It seems that even within the food rights movement, individuals can become very passionate about whether particular food measures up to particular standards. There is a lot of "he-said-she-said" in the back-and-forth of what's happening. It's my sense that this is another example of the difficulties created by the business pressures of that June 30 government raid on Rawesome.