FDA Rejects Organic Pastures Petition to Lift Interstate Raw Milk Ban, Accuses Advocates of Welcoming Pathogens
Back in December 2008, Mark McAfee of Organic Pastures Dairy Co. filed a citizens petition with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration asking that the agency lift its prohibition on interstate shipments of raw milk on a very limited basis--for milk moving from one state that allows it to a neighboring state that also allows it.
For more than four years, the FDA ignored McAfee’s requests for a decision, despite the fact the FDA is legally obligated to respond within six months. Last year, McAfee filed a suit in U.S. District Court to compel the agency to answer the petition.Finally, just as its deadline for filing a response to the U.S. District court was approaching, four years after the initial petition request, the agency responded...surprise--it rejected the petition.
But the FDA didn’t just reject the limited petition request. As if to say, “You wanted our reaction, huh, you really wanted our reaction?”....the FDA let loose.
In a 31-page assemblage of accusations, tabulations of illnesses from raw milk, and citations of studies, the FDA doesn't give an inch on any suggestions that raw milk might be acceptable in any form. Indeed, early in the document, the FDA author (Michael Landa, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition) states to McAfee that “many raw milk producers and advocates, including yourselves, consider the bacteria present in raw milk, including pathogens which might be present, to be ‘beneficial’ bacteria.”
If you’ve never heard such an accusation before, it is a classic example of a “canard.” That is "a false or baseless, usually derogatory story, report, or rumor," but in reality it is worse than that--it is a particularly vicious accusation meant to foment hatred. Those harboring a particular prejudice might say, “Those people love to (pick your descriptor) live in filth/cheat the poor/practice voodoo.” Blacks and Jews in particular have been victims of canards by mobs and even those in power as a way to foment violence and hatred.
So even though just a small group of raw milk drinkers may consider pathogens to be “beneficial,” the FDA has painted everyone who drinks raw milk with the brush, as in, “They all love pathogens. They are such wackos they don’t care about safety, they don’t care a whit about whether little kids get sick.”
Oh yes, the FDA’s attack does have some specifics. To McAfee’s petition argument that “in California more than 110 million servings of its raw milk products have not found one pathogen in its ‘raw milk’...” the FDA labels the assertion “incorrect. In California there have been nine recalls (quarantines) involving raw milk products since 2006...Seven of them have involved Organic Pastures...”
In response to McAfee’s argument that if raw milk “is safe to sell in California then it should be safe to sell that same raw milk in Nevada or Arizona wherever it is also legal to drink raw milk,” the FDA is similarly unrelenting. “FDA’s decision to regulate only the interstate distribution of raw milk was not based on a determination that intrastate distribution is safe, but rather...this decision was based on FDA’s judgment about the appropriate exercise of federal authority vis-a-vis state authority. Translation: We would have loved to have banned raw milk nationally, but we didn’t think we could get away with it in court challenges.”
There is more, about how warning labels could never substitute for pasteurization, and that children are especially at risk for illness from raw milk (a child being defined as anyone under twenty).
This assertion really says it all, though: “FDA is unaware of any scientific data which have been published since (the 1987 ban on interstate sales) that would cause it to change its opinion on this matter.” In other words, there is nothing to discuss.
McAfee had this comment: "The FDA did not respond to my narrow request. They instead went on a forty-year-old anti-raw-milk rant and misstated facts, including the 1985 Jalisco Cheese incident and its 48 deaths. Those people died from poorly pasteurized cheese, not raw milk!"