My friend Sue blogged today about the recent FDA raids on sources of raw milk. (LA Times covered the raid here.) She’s outraged, and probably reasonably so, about the restrictions on unpasturized foods.
(I say probably because I wish I had better information about the number of cases of illness caused by consumption of certified raw milk before actually deciding what I think. However, the risk seems to be reasonably slight, and if people are informed about the risks and benefits and decide the risk is worth benefits, then they should absolutely have the right to make that choice. After all, I eat sushi.)
On the other hand, I don’t think the raid is all bad. The stated reason given is that the co-op that was raided did not have the proper licensing and health inspections. (My understanding is that the co-op owners felt that, as a co-op, they did not count as a retail store and should not need the licence.) Well, why not?
For one thing, if an organization is already tweaking the government in one area (by selling raw milk), shouldn’t they avoid annoying them in other ways? Or is that contrary to the ideals of the organization itself? I imagine it’s a tricky balance for those in charge, deciding whether this is a situation of “give them an inch and they’ll take a mile” or whether it would be better to choose their battles. I’d be inclined towards the latter view, but then I don’t tend to regard the government as the Big Bad Wolf. They may feel differently.
My second issue is that I would think the co-op members would want the place to have health inspections, or at least someone regularly checking that the meat counters get washed between uses and the coolers are at the right temperature and there aren’t any vermin running about. I suppose governmental licensing isn’t the only way to make that happen, but I do wonder what they use instead. Personal assurances only go so far when the organization has 1,600 members.
However, the FDA did apparently confiscate various unpasturized goods, and the simultaneous raid on their raw milk supplier is telling. So worrying about the restrictions on sales of raw milk is reasonable. But it seems a shame to muddy the issue.
Sometimes I wish things were neat. They’re not. It’s pesty.
One other note, speaking of un-neat things: most articles I’ve seen assume that Big Dairy is pressuring the FDA to restrict raw milk distribution and harass those who use it, which may well be the case. If they are, I wonder why. These people were apparently paying more than four times grocery store prices for milk; I would think Big Dairy’s first instinct would be to get a cut of the action. Odd.