If I Didn’t Know Better, I’d Say All The Complexity Around Raw Milk, Raw Cheese, and Food Safety Rules Was Intentional
This may sound like a silly question, but why does the assault on nutrient-dense foods need to be cloaked in so much complexity? Consider...
* I’m thinking, first, about that FDA-Health Canada study on soft raw milk cheeses (discussed in my previous post), which took many hours and a number of re-readings to make sense out of (because of the 189 pages of complex mathematical formulas and calculations to finally arrive at its conclusion that soft raw milk cheeses are up to 160 times more dangerous than pasteurized cheeses).
* Now there’s the latest court action, in Canada, against dairy farmer Michael Schmidt and herdshare organizer Gordon Watson. That case, in British Columbia, over the operation of a single herdshare, is so involved and convoluted that the agencies involved--the local public health agency (Fraser Health Authority) and the national Health Canada--have been at odds over who permits what (the local public health officials want a ban of raw milk, while Health Canada allowed it as a “cosmetic,” with people free to use as preferred).
Schmidt and Watson were charged with contempt of court (for allegedly continuing to encourage the herd share’s operation after the local public health officials ordered it shut down) and distributing a “hazardous” product. A Canadian blogger who sat through some of the six days of trial, had this to say about the case: "The matter is so confusing. I'm not even sure if the correct people are n court. As a disclaimer, due to the testimony and cross-examination, sometimes I'm just not sure what the facts are."
I had contact with both Schmidt and Watson as the trial wrapped up, and they were encouraged that the judge allowed the trial to go on for six days instead of the scheduled three days, and seemed genuinely interested in the freedom-of-speech and other aspects of the defense. The prosecution seemed unnerved by all the judge’s questions and his decisions to allow pretty much all evidence the defense wanted to introduce. Unfortunately, a decision isn’t expect for at least three months, the judge indicated. (Michael Schmidt has written a sadly humorous account of some of the Canadian court proceedings on The Bovine.)
* Activists monitoring the Food Safety Modernization Act are scrambling to get the FDA to extend the comment period for the proposed rules announced in January covering produce, because those rules are unbelievably complex. According to Judith McGeary of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, “The sheer volume of rules - and the coming spring planting - make it very difficult to have enough time to properly analyze the rules and provide substantive comments to the FDA before the May 16, 2013 deadline.” Her organization is asking for a 120-day extension on the comment period “to ensure the new food safety rules do not undermine food safety by harming family farms and small-scale producers.” She offers a link so people can sign on to the extension (the deadline to sign on to the letter is Feb. 25).
Is the complexity part of the assault? The government (whether in Canada or the U.S.) makes policy about raw milk and raw milk cheeses so difficult to fathom that people throw up their hands and move their attention on to something else. I’m sure that is part of the intent in all these situations--who in their right mind is going to spend hours and hours trying to unravel the technicalities and legalities?
Sure, it is partly a sign of the overly legalistic and regulated times we live in. The ObamaCare legislation, for example, took 2,700 pages to spell out. Forbes.com figured that another 13,000 pages of regulations had been issued to explain things further by last month, and many more are expected as full implementation moves closer.
But food? Food is so basic, so simple. At least, it was.