October 18, 2010
Criminalizing Nature’s Most Perfect Food: FDA’s war on private food contracts
Is the FDA’s war on milk part of US strategy to ban all private food contracts?
By Rady Ananda
In his latest book, The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America’s Emerging Battle over Food Rights, David Gumpert details several cases of malicious prosecution against the natural dairy industry, reporting the myths, exaggerations and deceptions by authorities charged with protecting the food supply.
What you won’t get from the book is a whitewash of the raw milk movement. Even advocates were caught exaggerating claims or ignoring evidence. Gumpert also includes tender, heart-wrenching stories in the words of mothers whose children became critically ill from drinking contaminated raw milk, or so they believe. Though the link was never scientifically made in those cases, it was in others, including a raw milk herd share. Gumpert bridges compassion for those mothers with compassion for dairy owners who are financially wiped out by the government’s strategic war on private food arrangements.
From the cases explored in the book, and from recent government actions and statements, it becomes clear that food safety authorities are using their power to destroy competition of drugged, genetically engineered, factory processed foods.
For years, writers and researchers have shown how regulatory agencies have been captured by industry. President Obama exemplifies this in his Food Policy picks, recruiting directly from biotech firms like Monsanto and lobbying groups like CropLife America. His Supreme Court pick, Elena Kagan, in her capacity as Solicitor General, intervened on behalf of Monsanto in the first case to reach the US Supreme Court regarding genetically engineered food.
In the potent Foreword to the book, farmer Joel Salatin admits:
“People like me don’t trust Monsanto. We don’t trust the Food and Drug Administration. We don’t trust the Department of Agriculture. We don’t trust Tyson. And we don’t think it’s safe to be dependent on food that sits for a month in the belly of a Chinese merchant marine vessel.”
And the outcome?
“When the public no longer trusts its public servants, people begin taking charge of their own health and welfare. And that is exactly what is drving the local heritage food movement.”
Meet the FDA head of Dairy and Egg Safety, John F. Sheehan
Apparently bent on stopping the ‘local heritage food movement’ is John F. Sheehan, whom the FDA hired in 2000 to head its Dairy and Egg Safety Division. Gumpert spends much time on this elusive bureaucrat, a patent lawyer with a bachelor’s degree in dairy science. Sheehan’s actions epitomize the destruction that captive agencies can wreak on small producers when regulators cater to monopoly interests. (Image of John F. Sheehan, FDA Director of Dairy & Egg Safety, by David Gumpert. Used with permission.)
Sheehan also serves as a US delegate on the Milk & Milk Products Committee of the Codex Alimentarius Commission. Codex is a United Nations offshoot that harmonizes food standards to facilitate international trade. Some believe Codex also seeks to limit trade of Earth’s natural supplements and whole foods. (See, e.g., Kevin Miller’s 2005 film, We Become Silent: The Last Days of Health Freedom.)
Gumpert, an investigative journalist focused on the intersection of health and business, found Sheehan’s background elusive. The FDA stonewalled Gumpert’s efforts to gather information about him, only revealing that Sheehan worked in the large end of the dairy industry for 17 years. Many efforts to meet him failed. Gumpert admits with a little embarrassment that he traveled 2,500 miles just to photograph the man. Alas, Sheehan refused to speak to him, as did other FDA regulators.
Disparate Treatment of Natural Foods and Pharmaceutically-Driven CAFOs
That John Sheehan is a patent lawyer is not incidental. Concentrated animal feeding operations use patented, genetically modified drugs and feed. Having a patent lawyer head the FDA’s Dairy and Egg Division benefits the biotech end of food production. That may reveal Sheehan’s loyalties, which in turn may reveal what’s driving the FDA’s war on natural food.
Sheehan’s preferential treatment of Wright County Egg, which was involved in this year’s half-billion egg recall after 1,500 people were sickened by salmonella poisoning, stands in perfect contrast to his malevolent war on natural milk suppliers whose products sickened no one.
Providing a timeline of infractions covering decades, The Atlantic said, “[Wright County Egg owner, Jack] DeCoster has left a trail of illness, injury, mistreatment, and death in his wake for decades. That he has been left to police himself for so long is a stunning testament to the failure of federal regulators.”
The AP reported that “his facilities tested positive for salmonella contamination hundreds of times in the two years before this summer’s outbreak.”
Congressman Henry Waxman told the New York Times that for decades, “DeCoster farms have had warning after warning. Yet they continue to raise chickens in slovenly conditions and to make millions of dollars by selling contaminated eggs.”…(continued)
Read the full review at Global Research
Livin La Vida Low-Carb blog
There’s a battle going on in America right now and it’s gotten really ugly very quickly. No, I’m not talking about the state of politics, the debate over religion, or any of the other usual suspects. This fight is about the rights of Americans to have access to real food. And we’re not talking about that stuff sold in grocery stores under the guise of “food” either. It’s real, whole, unadulterated foods that are grown and harvested on local farms that provide far superior nutrition and nourishment to the mass-produced versions sold in supermarkets from coast to coast. The problem is one of access and the culprit standing in the way most of the time are the government bureaucrats who seek to destroy the very fabric of what once made this nation so great. The crux of this issue centers around the sale of raw milk which is currently illegal to purchase in stores in 40 states. One of the leading voices in support of local farmers attempting to provide healthy raw milk products to the consumer is journalist David E. Gumpert and he chronicles the travesty happening with this issue in his book The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America’s Emerging Battle Over Food Rights.
I’m fortunate enough to live in one of the states where raw milk is legal (South Carolina) and can drive down to a local store about a mile from my house or the family farm about 10 miles away to purchase it without fear of breaking the law. Although I don’t drink a lot of milk because of the natural sugars that are in it, I do enjoy a glass of raw milk from time to time as well as consuming raw cheeses as part of my healthy low-carb lifestyle. It’s a privilege that can be taken for granted by people who have access to these foods because not everyone is so fortunate to live in an area where raw dairy is allowed to be legally sold to them.
Gumpert himself became especially curious about health when he experienced firsthand the failure of the healthcare system after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2001. That was what helped light a fire in him to become more and more acutely aware of how health is managed in America and what he soon discovered was frightening in a country purporting to promote freedom and choice. And being a researcher and writer by trade, Gumpert began chronicling the raw milk crackdowns in 2006 on his blog which inspired the creation of this book. Interestingly, while the government has taken an interest in bringing an end to small dairy farmers producing and distributing unpasteurized milk to consumers who wish to purchase it for themselves and their families under the auspices of protecting them from potentially harmful pathogens, they have all but ignored the health benefits that come from consuming raw milk. It’s this oxymoronic irony that fills the pages of The Raw Milk Revolution.
Read the original review here.
The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America’s Emerging Battle Over Food Rights
Green Book Reviews - GreenBooks.ca
by Ellen Desjardins
The Raw Milk Revolution, by David E. Gumpert, would more accurately be entitled “Milk Wars.” Any attempt to sell raw milk creates a froth of such proportions that we must conclude that it is symptomatic of something bigger.
The war is all about politics and ideology – about food control and food beliefs. So when battle lines are outwardly drawn around issues of food safety and the right of citizens to choose the food they want, it takes Gumpert’s sharp journalistic skills to uncover what risks to profits and livelihoods could lie beneath.
In most of the US, unpasteurized (raw) milk cannot be sold. The likelihood of contracting a food-borne illness is higher with raw milk, but farmers say the risk can be minimized with proper precautions. Nevertheless, regulators see any attempt to sell raw milk as the slippery slope to disaster, refusing in most states to entertain the option of licensing farmers to sell clean and inspected raw milk. Their microbiology-based arguments are countered by testimonials of people who claim that raw milk is the answer to various medical conditions.
It sets up a “science versus stories” dynamic that seems problematic. But why is there no published scientific literature on the potential health value of raw milk? Gumpert maintains that this one-sided focus from scientists could be a reflection of the depth of a manufactured taboo, which views all bacteria in negative terms. If regular exposure to small amounts of bacteria in milk could strengthen the immune system by creating healthy gut flora (as one theory goes), could this not be the legitimate subject of scientific investigation?
The book is a play-by-play documentation of dairy farms in California, Michigan and Iowa, where raw milk attracts thousands of consumers, but also the authorities. The reader will be shocked by accounts of military-style sting operations, in which dairy farmers are treated as terrorists, and their bottles of raw milk are confiscated as if they were explosive devices. But we are also sobered by the devastating illness caused by E. coli infection in some well-publicized cases, although the connection with raw milk is often assumed, not proven.
Why, asks Gumpert, is the government kicking around a bunch of small dairy farmers? Despite the fact that farmers can charge more for raw milk if they sell it directly than if it goes to the milk processing industry, Gumpert refuses to frame the battle solely as control by Big Dairy. He points to the dominant medical paradigm of disease in which bacteria are the enemy. The low legal benchmarks for bacteria in raw milk appear both unrealistic and unfair, and data from the Centre for Disease Control show that the risk of contracting listeriosis from deli meat could be greater than from raw milk.
Gumpert, in American-centred fashion, refers to “the government” and “our country” throughout the book without any acknowledgment that Canadians are fighting similar battles. For instance, Canadian courts recently charged, and then exonerated, Michael Schmidt for selling unpasteurized milk in Southern Ontario. In both countries, opposing groups have dug in for a protracted battle that shows no sign of ending anytime soon.
Ellen Desjardins is a nutritionist and doctoral candidate in Human Geography at Wilfrid Laurier University.
Read the original article here...
Book Review: The Raw Milk Revolution
by Christine Lepisto, Berlin on 12.16.09
Thomas Jefferson said "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." But in the modern age, it is the flow of money, rather than blood, which mainly determines the outcome of questions of freedom versus bureaucracy. David E. Gumpert raises the curtain on the workings of state and federal agencies responding to what seems a simple question: should American citizens be allowed the personal freedom to choose to drink raw milk?
It seems like the founding fathers would make easy work of that one: an individual makes a fully informed decision, choosing to accept certain risks in return for what they believe to be yet greater benefits, which can in no way do harm to any other person. Is that not the very definition of individual liberty? What Gumpert reveals will make you question the very premise upon which the United States of America is founded.
A Compelling Story
Isn't it curious that at this juncture in our culture's evolution, we collectively believe Twinkies, Lucky Charms and Coca-Cola are safe foods, but compost-grown organic tomatoes and raw milk are not?
--from the forward, by Joel Salatin
I entered this book expecting a treatise whose pages would be turned only by a compelling curiosity on the issue of raw milk. Instead, I found 228 pages packed with interesting and personal stories, knit together by an overarching philosophical question: can individual choice survive when the agents of government raise their sights against a minority practicing their beliefs?
David E. Gumpert's journalistic credentials include work for BusinessWeek.com, the Wall Street Journal and the Harvard Business Review. He has followed the evolution of the Raw Milk Revolution up close and personally on his website The Complete Patient. His professionalism and depth of knowledge permit him to bring the facts and explanations regarding raw milk in America to light with no hysteria and little hype.
Read the whole article here.
10 November 2009
green books campaign: the raw milk revolution
This review is part of the Green Books campaign. Today 100 bloggers are reviewing 100 great books printed in an environmentally friendly way. Our goal is to encourage publishers to get greener and readers to take the environment into consideration when purchasing books. This campaign is organized by Eco-Libris, a a green company working to green up the book industry by promoting the adoption of green practices, balancing out books by planting trees, and supporting green books. A full list of participating blogs and links to their reviews is available on Eco-Libris website.
What do government regulators have against raw milk?
The Raw Milk Revolution is an exploration of this and other relevant questions in a time when the entire industrialized food system is coming into question.
Based on his blog, The Complete Patient, David Gumpert provides a reasonable, balanced, and straightforward account of the pros and cons of raw milk consumption and the legal constraints placed on its production.
The book provides historic context of the dairy industry, from about the time of the Industrial Revolution to more recent regulatory history regarding food safety. It balances past events with the current trend toward consuming raw dairy, explaining both the purported risks and benefits of the product that comes unadulterated from the cow (or goat or sheep).
Read the whole article here.
The Raw Milk Revolution by David Gumpert
Interest in raw milk has been growing steadily as of late, and along with it has come pressure from state and federal regulatory agencies on suppliers to stop providing the controversial food. In The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America’s Emerging Battle Over Food Rights, business journalist David Gumpert examines the legal bout over unpasteurized milk that has taken place over the last several years.
Concern begins with a small group of people getting sick and testing positive for the famous e.coli strain 0157:H7. Next, state officials deem that the occasionally life-threatening bacteria were contracted by drinking raw milk. (Gumpert shows just how inconclusive these findings can be, however.) Newspapers run headlines about raw milk nearly taking the life of someone’s child, and whether justified or not, the farmer is run out of business and a fear of the drink is established. The legal precedents being set in examples like this one are literally changing the rights of raw milk consumers and producers as you read this.
Read the whole article here.