In 1906 Upton Sinclair published “The Jungle”. The book was supposed to be about “the inferno of exploitation [of the typical American factory worker at the turn of the 20th Century]”. It was best known however for its scathing exposé on the Chicago meatpacking industry and their practices. The book and the disgusting practices it brought to light was one of the reasons that President Theodore Roosevelt (who received an advanced copy of the book) pushed through the Pure Food and Drug Act that same year.
The Pure Food and Drug act provided “For preventing the manufacture, sale, or transportation of adulterated or misbranded or poisonous or deleterious foods, drugs, medicines, and liquors, and for regulating traffic therein, and for other purposes.” This act led to the Federal Drug Administration’s (FDA) founding.
I wonder what Teddy Roosevelt would think of the FDA and the role of United States and Canadian governments for that matter when it comes to providing safe food to its citizens in today’s world. And I wonder why the FDA doesn’t still hold to the Pure Food and Drug Act’s requirement regarding “adulterated, … poisonous or deleterious foods”.
While Cargill (a company that sells poultry) deliberated whether to recall its tainted meats (because apparently the FDA has no right to mandate a recall), FDA agents have been busy raiding small farms for selling milk in its raw form. Farms that I might add that have never had an issue with illness resulting from their handling of this product.
In the past few years, we as consumers have been hit with news (and the results of) tainted peanuts, spinach, ground beef, turkey and cantaloupes which have sickened the American people and caused deaths. All of the taint has been through foods provided to us by large industrialized operations, none of the taint has been from small, locally owned and operated farms.
Additionally, our food supply is tainted by GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organism) and the FDA has ignored their own scientists warnings regarding the safety of these foods. The FDA also refuses to allow food to be labeled detailing whether the food has GMO ingredients or not.
In Wisconsin a federal judge, Patrick Fiedler, actually ruled that the American people do not have the fundamental right to choose what types of food they eat. “This court is unwilling to declare that there is a fundamental right to consume the food of one’s choice without first being presented with significantly more developed arguments on both sides of the issue,” the judge wrote. A few months after making this ruling, the judge stepped down and went to work for a law firm representing Monsanto.
In the past few years the FDA and the USDA have both ruled that genetically modified salmon and agricultural products should be allowed onto the market along with BGH milk. Further they have ruled that there is no reason to label these products as genetically modified thus giving the American people no option to make clearly defined choices.
So amidst all the evidence that raw milk has many benefits and that raw milk from small, local farms following strict hygenic practices is as safe (or safer than many foods that are sold), why is the CDC lying about it and why is the FDA raiding these same family farms? Why when as of today, there have been 28 deaths due to canteloupe tainted with listeria and only 2 deaths reported (incorrectly) by the CDC attributable to raw milk from 2000-2008, has the federal government not outlawed canteloupe and instead tried to make the distribution of raw milk such an issue? In fact there have been more deaths reported (3) in association with pasteurized milk in 2007 and 1300 California inmates were sickened from drinking pasteurized milk in California in 2006, yet the CDC tries to tell us that pasteurized milk is safer for us.
The issues surrounding this aren’t just about raw milk, its about our ability to mindfully choose the foods that go into our bodies. (Sharon Long wrote a great post about this in local.farmersmarket.com, which says it much better than we can. But at this point, its raw milk that is coming under fire and its about raw milk that we can start making a stand.
In Ontario, Canada Michael Schmidt is protesting a Canadian appellate court ruling that he illegally sells raw milk. He has been on a hunger strike since September 29th, in an attempt to engage the authorities in a “constructive dialogue about the issue of non-pasteurized milk in Ontario and Canada.” Much like what is happening in the United States, Mr. Schmidt has been raided, and dragged through the court system, all for providing people who sought him out and providing them with raw milk through a cow share program.
In May of this year, Amish farmer, Dan Allgyer was raided by the FDA in Pennsylvania (where the sale of raw milk is legal), for providing milk to a raw milk buyer’s club in the DC Metro area. Again, the people who are part of this buying club have chosen to buy and drink this milk. No one forced them.
On November 1 a number of mothers known as the “Raw Milk Freedom Riders” will go to Dan Allgyer’s farm in Pennsylvania and purchase raw milk. While it is perfectly legal to purchase raw milk in Pennsylvania they will then be transporting this milk across state lines into Maryland which is illegal. They will then be bringing raw milk to the FDA headquarters in Silver Spring Maryland distributing it to their families and others who are there in protest. Many local food advocates will be in attendance and speaking; including Michael Schmidt, Joel Salatin of Poly Face Farms and Max Kane, a raw milk activist and film maker.
Much like the Occupy Wall Street movements, its time for us to do our part. Its important for each of us to be legally allowed to make knowledgeable choices of what types of foods we and our families eat. If we need to protest to make our voices heard, we should. You might not choose to drink raw milk but you might choose to drink milk that is free of BgH. You might not care whether a salmon is genetically modified, but I should be able to make that choice and know exactly what it is that I am consuming.
Its all about the choices we should be able to make for ourselves. Not being blindly led by a government which while promoting healthy foods via Michelle Obama, goes ahead and appoints someone with ties to Monsanto to head the USDA. If the government won’t protect us anymore and knowingly lies about it, its time for us to step up.