One thing you have to say about the state agriculture officials in New York, Pennsylvania, and California. At least theyre consistent.
When they claim to find pathogens in samples of raw milk and no one gets sick, they force a recall or shut down raw milk production at the targeted dairy.
And when people who happen to be raw milk drinkers get sick and no pathogens are found, the regulators automatically blame raw milk, and force a recall or shut down milk production.
Sometimes they find a dairy producer who gets their sadistic juices flowing, like Mark Nolt, and they hit him again and again, where the only indications of pathogens or illness seem to be with the individual regulators in charge.
Heads I win, tails you lose.
The only good news is that the regulators’ claims are increasingly being questioned. Farmers are speaking up more often and more strongly. And, surprise surprise, theyre actually getting at least a bit of their viewpoint heard in the media.
The latest such raw-milk mystery involves a Pennsylvania dairy, Hendricks Farms and Dairy, accused by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture of having sold raw milk that sickened at least ten people with campylobacter. Except the PDA cant find any campylobacter in the dairys milk, nor do independent tests by the dairy show any pathogens.
The Pennsylvania Health Secretary took the unusual step of issuing a press release on PR Newswire, a major press release distribution service that charges hundreds of dollars to issue releases. (To locate the release, go to www.prnewswire.com, and search under Hendricks.)
All that has the dairys owner, Trent Hendricks, understandably upset.
HF&D has never had a positive pathogen test from any samples taken directly from our farm. Any statements to the contrary are false and misleading., Trent says on the farms web site.
And local organizations of consumers are speaking up as well. Three organizationsthe Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, the Pennsylvania Independent Consumers and Farmers Association, and the Weston A. Price Foundationon Wednesday issued a joint press release stating, A series of rush-to-judgment raw dairy recalls and actions against raw milk farmers around the country, has exposed inappropriate protocols used to assess the safety of raw milk and extreme bias on the part of investigators.
Trent points out in that joint release, I have jumped through hoops in an attempt to meet or surpass the state requirements. Our farm has an excellent track record on test results, and we even go above and beyond by testing the milk weekly for pathogens. All of our good faith efforts and compliance didnt amount to a hill of beans. When we needed the benefit of the doubt from the state, it wasnt there. We take food safety very seriously. All we asked is that PDA have evidence before they convict us. Instead, they insisted on putting out a press release damning our product before test results were back–before they had any conclusive proof.
It would seem as if the local agency that requires you to register and takes your registration fee should be willing to try to figure out exactly what’s happening before shutting you down.
The local news media have given the affair significant coverage and, to the credit of some, have raised the questionable nature of the findings.
Youd think that with all the questionable findings, or non-findings, that maybe the regulators would be curious to understand the discrepancies. That is, maybe theyd want to have their scientists explore what could be leading to false positives, or what other foods or conditions might be making people sick. Because right now, all theyre doing is confusing people.
It’s important to understand that the state agencies take their marching orders from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and here is what the FDAs John Sheehan, Director, Division of Plant and Dairy Food Safety Office of Food Safety, said before the Maryland House of Delegates in early 2007 when testifying against legislation that would have allowed cow-shares in the state:
Raw milk should not be consumed by anyone, at any time, for any reason. FDA’s opinion in this matter is entirely consistent with that of the American Medical Association, which holds as policy the position that all milk sold for human consumption should be required to be pasteurized
You cant get a much more definitive policy statement than that. The fact that half a million or more Americans are consuming raw milk each day without any problems is irrelevant to the regulators. If youre basing policy on ideology, exploration is the last thing you want to encourage. Because the answers might be different than what you want them to be.