It’s real, it’s raw, it’s awesome — it’s Rawesome Food. The founder of the Ventura, Calif. co-op searches the nation for the best in unheated, unpasteurized, unradiated foods — milk, cheese, fish, meat, nuts, oils, fruits and veggies — to sell to members.
A terrific example of several American traits — entrepreneurialism, consumer choice, health advocacy and community.
What’s not to love?
Well, apparently American adults cannot consume raw foods, even if they choose to do so understanding the potential dangers. Smoke cigarettes? Sure. Drown your liver in whiskey and vodka? Go ahead. Stuff your face with GMO corn-puffs, maple-flavored high fructose corn syrup and trans fats? Be the government’s guest.
But drink raw milk and face the wrath of federal and local government. And that’s just what happened to Rawesome. On June 30, 2010, armed — guns drawn in fact — agents from the FDA, FBI, California Dept. of Agriculture, the Health Dept, and the LA county Sheriff’s Dept. raided Rawesome food looking for cheese. Video here. They also ended up raiding several farmers and suppliers of raw foods around the country.
Please read about it here.
If this weren’t so scary it would be funny. Actually, as Stephen Colbert shows us — it is funny. Last week “The Colbert Report” ran a segment on the Rawesome raid. (Click here to watch).
Putting aside the debate about the benefits of raw vs. pasteurized milk for another post, let’s juts focus on whether Americans should have the right to drink raw milk if they want to. The FDA’s stance, that raw milk can cause outbreaks of listeria, salmonella or e coli seems weak at best to me. All foods are capable of being contaminated.
Remember the recent salmonella outbreak in factory farmed eggs? According to the NYT:
More than half a billion eggs were recalled last month, the majority from a group of Iowa farms, called Wright County Egg, owned by Mr. DeCoster. It is not the first time that eggs he produced made people sick. He has sold eggs that caused salmonella outbreaks several times before, including a 1987 outbreak at a New York City hospital in which about 500 people got sick and 9 died.
What about the August recall of a million pounds of ground beef due to e coli? (Just Google it, folks)
And for you veggie-heads, it’s not an animal products thing. There’s the Hepatitis A in your scallions, the e. coli in your bagged spinach and who can forget the salmonella outbreak via jalapeno peppers that sickened more than 1,00o people?
How about chips and salsa at your favorite Mexican joint? According to CNN:
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report found that 3.9 percent of foodborne outbreaks from 1998 to 2008 in restaurants were confirmed or suspected to be from salsa, guacamole or pico de gallo.
These 136 reported outbreaks included 12 pathogens such as salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, shigella, hepatitis A and norovirus. Researchers found three deaths associated with the outbreaks.
What does this mean for the average food eater? I have no idea. But I’m pretty sure it doesn’t mean that raw milk (from healthy cows) is inherently more dangerous than any other food. The way food is grown, raised, processed, packaged and stored will determine how safe it is to eat. Pasteurization was invented in the late 19th century. We had been drinking milk for a long time before that, and not dropping like flies because of it. In fact, many people all over the world still drink raw milk to no ill-effect. In France, where I lived for several years, raw dairy is seen as practically a right. Pasteurizing cheese is a sin. All the best restaurants serve raw butter, read about a famous brand here. All over France there are raw milk dispensers, even outside large supermarket chains in the suburbs!
And here’s another one in Slovenia, photo courtesy of Hartke is Online.
So what do I conclude? That large American agri-business has a stake in keeping raw milk illegal. 1) they don’t want the competition from small-scale farmers who sell raw milk and 2) they know they could never meet the sanitary requirements of a raw-milk facility and still make a profit. Agribusiness is invested in the lie that raw milk is dangerous and pasteurized milk safer because that is their business model i.e. how they make money. And that is all they care about.
Cows that are raised to produce raw milk are fed a mostly, if not entirely, grass diet. They roam freely. Hence they are rarely sick and don’t need drugs. Cows on factory farms live in feedlots, stand in their own feces, shoulder to shoulder with other cows, eat grain which destroys their guts, sickens them and fosters e. coli — hence all the antibiotic use. They are fed rBGH — a hormone that increases udder infection (and so antibiotic use) is a suspected carcinogen and is passed along in the milk. Drinking raw milk from one of these factory farm cows is a sure-fire ticket to the emergency room.
Do you depend on the Federal Governemnt and the FDA to protect you? From The Annie Appleseed Project:
Question: How is it that every industrialized nation in the world has banned Monsanto’s rBGH as unsafe, but it’s legal (and unlabeled) in the United States?
Answer: In order for the FDA to determine if Monsanto’s growth hormones were safe or not, Monsanto was required to submit a scientific report on that topic. Margaret Miller, one of Monsanto’s researchers put the report together.
Shortly before the report submission, Miller left Monsanto and was hired by the FDA. Her first job for the FDA was to determine whether or not to approve the report she wrote for Monsanto. In short, Monsanto approved its own report. Assisting Miller was another former Monsanto researcher, Susan Sechen.
Deciding whether or not rBGH-derived milk should be labeled fell under the jurisdiction of another FDA official, Michael Taylor, who previously worked as a lawyer for Monsanto.
And so on and so on. Follow the money.