How Dangerous Is Raw Milk vs Common Pharmaceuticals, Obesity, Auto Travel? Judge Gets New Perspective on Dairy
Our politicians and policy makers are amazingly adept at creating scapegoats so as to avoid dealing with real problems that might affect entrenched interests.
The ongoing Wisconsin protests are a case in point. The governor, Scott Walker, has made public workers the scapegoats in the state's budget crisis, and is using them as an excuse to eliminate key union bargaining rights. The real problem in Wisconsin is much the same as the national debt challenge: we have become addicted to spending more than we take in, and aren't willing to accept the idea that we need broad sacrifices across the board to even begin to think about getting back on track. The entrenched interests, be they governors who hand out patronage jobs or corporations benefiting from regulatory favoritism, aren't willing to make sacrifices.
I'm not especially enamored of the public employees in Wisconsin. Remember, they include bureaucrats with the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection, who have been going after dairy farmers with a vengeance during the last couple of years. I wouldn't mind seeing their budgets cut so far back that many of them would have to find real jobs. But I dislike even more the scapegoating that is driving the Wisconsin budgetary situation.
It's a situation not unlike what we face with the regulation of raw dairy. We see the regulators jump on any indication of illness, while sanctioning huge numbers of illnesses and deaths from prescription drugs and all kinds of lifestyle problems.
That's been a frequent theme in comments on this blog, and now at long last, the discrepancies are being pointed out to the federal judge in Iowa hearing the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund's case against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and its Food and Drug Administration.
According to Gary Cox, the lawyer for the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, the judge in the case last September ordered that "the parties were to file status reports each month. Our strategy was to file with the court reports that contained evidence of how irrational 1240.61 [ban on interstate shipment of raw milk] is."
The two most recent reports pick up on arguments made frequently by raw milk advocates here that raw milk, comparatively speaking, isn't much of a public health problem.
The report for January included announcements from pharmaceutical companies about side effects for nine different commonly prescribed drugs; for example, that Ambien and Ambien CR "may cause a special type of memory loss...dependence...withdrawal....hallucinations, worsening of depression, suicidal thoughts." Symbicort, a drug for people with bronchitis and emphysema, "may increase the chance of death from asthma problems."
Concluded the FTCLDF filing: "These are all drugs that are approved by the FDA. It is irrational for the FDA to ban the interstate shipment or distribution of raw milk that does not have any of these symptoms or side effects yet allow these drugs to be sold in interstate commerce given the dangers they present."
The report for February cites 2005 data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, which report deaths from various public health problems. For example...4,649 deaths from obesity, 684 from sleep disorders, and 4,596 from motor vehicle deaths, among many others.
"Counsel for Plaintiffs could not find in these data any deaths associated with the consumption of fresh, unprocessed, raw milk and/or other raw dairy products." The filing also quotes Ted Beals, the Michigan pathologist, as saying "it is more of a risk for him to drive his car and obtain his milk than it is for him to consume his milk."
I would guess the latest FTCLDF reports aren't the run-of-the-mill legal reports the judge is accustomed to seeing.
Another FDA matter that's come up in the last few weeks has been the 2008 case involving Mark McAfee and his Organic Pastures Dairy Co., which both pleaded guilty to felony charges stemming from shipping raw milk across state lines, in violation of the law the FTCLDF is now fighting in federal court. The guilty plea was actually part of a plea bargain under which McAfee and OPDC agreed to abide by the interstate shipment ban for two years, after which the convictions would be dropped. According to McAfee, the FDA and the judge in the case went along with the understanding and just formally signed off. As he puts it, "I'm now a free man."