Raw Milk Protesters Gather On Capitol Hill
By Melanie Alnwik
WASHINGTON – On Capitol Hill, fans of raw milk clamor for another cup.
“Who needs a glass? There you go!” says Chef Monica Corrado enthusiastically.
She opens another gallon and pours the creamy white liquid into rows of cups on a picnic table.
Corrado, who is also a holistic food counselor, explains what the fuss is all about.
“When you have grass fed cows, the nutrient density of the milk is incredible. The cancer fighting properties of the milk are incredible,” says Corrado.
While the kids are sipping, the adults have a few words for the federal government.
“The big issue in this century is food and farm freedom,” Sally Fallon Morell shouts into the loudspeaker. “That’s what we’re here about!”
Cheers from the crowd erupt.
They’re upset about an FDA crackdown on an Amish farmer, Dan Allgyer. He runs Rainbow Acres Farm in Kinzer, Pennsylvania. Allgyer produces raw milk for his community, and for some customers in Maryland and D.C. as well. Because the milk is unpasteurized — not heated to kill bacteria — it is against federal law to sell or distribute across state lines.
“He is being treated as if he were a drug lord by our federal government! He is being treated as if what he sells is contraband that will cause injury to anyone who gets near the substance and this is fresh milk!” Jonathan Emord froths the crowd.
He is a constitutional law attorney who has argued many cases against the Food and Drug Administration.
Liz Reitzig organized the rally called Grassfed on the Hill. They even brought in a dairy cow, and in the shadow of the Capitol dome, milked her and drank a warm milk toast in support of their farmer.
Despite the smiling kids, happy mom, and milk mustaches, at least one pro-consumer group warns that raw milk is a dangerous drink.
Sarah Klein is an attorney with the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
“When I see all of these people drinking raw milk today, I kind of want to ask, ‘Why don’t we have a table set up with raw ground beef and raw eggs for you to feed your children?’ It’s because we all recognize that that’s not a safe thing to do,” says Klein.
She warns that pathogens like e-coli, salmonella, and listeria can contaminate the milk, or its containers, and cause fatal illnesses.
Raw milk advocates say good bacteria in the milk keeps those bad bacteria at bay.
Here’s the FDA’s position: “Drinking raw milk is dangerous and shouldn’t be consumed under any circumstances,” says Dara A. Corrigan, FDA’s Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs.
FDA has warned the defendant on multiple occasions that introducing raw milk into interstate commerce is in violation of federal law.
Klein also disputes some of the health claims that have been made for raw milk.
“There is nothing in milk, whether it’s raw or pasteurized, that is a cure for autism, or arthritis, or cancer, or diabetes, or any of the other things that they claim. We have to remember this is just milk from a cow, it’s not milk from a unicorn,” says Klein.
Raw milk is legal to sell at retail stores in 10 states. 15 others states allow direct farm to consumer sales. Consumers in some other states use a co-op arrangement called a herd share. The argument is that the dairy cows belong to the members of the co-op, and the farmer is just paid to feed, house and milk them.
It is illegal to sell in Maryland, D.C. and Virginia. Reitzig says because of the co-op arrangement with Rainbow Acres Farm, the milk isn’t really being ‘sold’ across state lines.
“There’s no way to access (raw milk) in Maryland. So we try to work within the laws. So we form these private buying groups. We’re not actually paying for the products. We’re paying for the labor involved in getting those products,” says Reitzig.
She gives all four of her kids raw milk to drink, and drinks it herself while being pregnant with a fifth. For them, it’s a matter of freedom to choose what they feed their families.
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