Dear WAPF Members and Raw Milk Supporters
The following is an update on the raw milk situation in California. Please read carefully and then go to action with your phone calls, letters, activism and financial support. If you don’t need all the background information, just skip down to Action to Take, the main one being phone calls to the Health Committee of the California Assembly. We need EVERYONE to call-all 7,000 of you on this list!
On the Legal Front
On March 6, Attorney Gary Cox of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund filed for a temporary restraining order (TRO) and a preliminary injunction in San Benito Superior Court on behalf of Organic Pastures Dairy Corporation (OPDC) and Claravale Dairy, California’s two raw milk producers, to prevent the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) from enforcing the coliform standard (the standard calls for suspension of a product’s sales when three out of five consecutive tests for that product exceed a coliform count of 10 in the final container).
Judge Harry J. Tobias granted the TRO on March 19 in favor of the dairies, prohibiting CDFA from enforcing the coliform standard while instructing the agency to continue to collect and test milk samples from the dairies (which the agency has not done). In winning the TRO, Gary was able to convince the judge that both dairies would go out of business if the coliform standard were enforced and that the standard was not rationally related to the safety of the milk.
The next step in the judicial process was for Judge Tobias to rule on whether to convert the TRO to a preliminary injunction. Hearings were held on this issue April 25 and May 23. The Fund and the Weston A. Price Foundation brought in two experts to testify at that hearing, Dr. Ted Beals from Michigan and Dr. Ron Hull from Australia. To read their amazing testimony, in which they argued that the coliform test was not a test of safety, but merely a test for successful pasteurization, go to www.realmilk.com/expert-testimony-0508.pdf
Unfortunately, at the conclusion of the May 23 hearing, the judge denied the dairies a preliminary injunction, essentially reversing his earlier position and holding that the coliform standard had a rational basis in law. In making his ruling, the judge added that he was not convinced the plaintiffs would prevail at trial (the trial would be for a permanent injunction) and “from the plaintiffs’ standpoint they should be dealing with their political representatives for legislative
On June 5, the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund filed an appeal; arguments will probably be heard in October or November. Until a ruling is made on the appeal, the Fund will argue that the TRO should remain in effect. This would give us much needed time to put new legislation in place.
On the Legislative Front
On Monday, June 9, California State Senator Dean Florez, together with Senator Perata and Assemblymember Berryhill introduced Senate Bill 201, the “Fresh Raw Milk Act of 2008,” which would replace AB1735 with a more rational standard for raw milk safety. The legislation comes as a response to Senate hearings on April 15, featuring Whole Foods President Walter Robb, Sally Fallon, Dr. Ron Hull of Australia, Dr. Ted Beals, Dr. Robert Irons and many others in support of raw milk.
A tremendous amount of lobbying and back room work has gone into crafting a bill that would have bi-partisan support and also that the governor would be willing to sign. While we would have preferred a bill that simply rescinds AB1735, we were told that there was no chance for that type of legislation unless we could come up with something that answered safety concerns. SB 201 actually has the support of the California dairy industry and will not be opposed by the California medical association.
For the first time in the United States, SB 201 mandates a HACCP (food safety) plan at California’s raw milk dairies. This type of individualized food safety plan is
presently utilized by food processors in other industries in California, and was deemed to be the best alternative to promote raw milk food safety by a UC Davis scientist at the recent hearing. Whether a raw milk dairy has 20 cows or 400 cows, the cost effectiveness of this food safety plan is achievable by all. Both dairies are now developing HAACP plans in cooperation with UC Davis.
Other features of SB 201 include:
- Raw milk must be tested for pathogens eight times more often than currently mandated.
- Each raw milk dairy must provide independent lab samples twice per week.
- Raw milk dairies must test directly for the pathogens that cause illness in humans at least once per month.
- Raw milk dairies may take raw milk samples from any location.
- Raw milk dairies may not receive milk from non-raw milk dairies; the protections put into place by SB 201 cannot be circumvented by receiving milk from a dairy not subject to these stringent requirements.
These innovative food safety measures, when taken in their entirety, provide multiple layers of protection to our consumers, ensuring that California continues to be the leader in raw milk food safety.
Because SB 201 will be designated as an urgency bill, it will go into effect immediately after signature by the Governor. The challenge of an urgency bill, however, is that we need a 2/3 majority, rather than a simple majority, for the bill to pass. This is why your support is crucial! The California raw milk supply is threatened by AB 1735 and if SB 201 is not passed and signed into law, your ability to buy raw milk and dairy products in California is in jeopardy. It took just 75 days for the CDFA to stop raw cream from being sold earlier this year based on AB 1735 standards.
CDC Report on Illness Associated with Raw Milk
On June 13, CDC issued a report associating several illnesses from E.coli O157:H7
with raw milk, which put raw milk in the worst possible light. You can read this report at www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5723a2.htm. Concurrently, several biased articles appeared in the major media which presented the government point of view.
The Weston A. Price Foundation has issued a press release to correct the misinformation contained in the CDC report, which we have included in this email, below.
Action to Take
Raw milk consumers need to do five things to protect their access to raw milk:
- MAKE PHONE CALLS: It is imperative to phone members of the Assembly Health Committee between now and the hearing June 24. Emails are also good. Contact information is provided below. We hope that every one of you will phone or fax every member of the committee at least three times between now and the 24th. Make your message brief. For example, you can say, “I support SB 201 because my child needs raw milk to prevent asthma,” or “Please support the California Fresh Raw Milk Act of 2008 because raw milk helped reverse my osteoporosis.”
- Plan to attend the hearing on SB 201 in June 24 at 1:30 PM in Room 4202 of the State Capitol. It is imperative to get a large crowd at the hearing.
- For California citizens: Write a letter to your State Assemblymember AND Senator asking them support SB 201. Remember that a hard copy letter gets more attention than an email or fax. Be sure to stress the fact that unlike AB 1735, SB 201 bill will ensure the safety of raw milk for California consumers. Then add your own personal testimony. If you have photos of people helped by raw milk, especially children, be sure to include them. If you can visit your legislator at his or her office, so much the better! To find the address of your senator and representative, go to http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/yourleg.html.
- Write letters to editors of newspapers, post on blogs, and voice your support for SB 201 in the media; feel free to use our latest press release, which is included below.
- Please donate to support the Farm-to-Consumers Legal Defense Fund’s continued fight for raw milk. The Fund has spent over $50,000 on this fight so far, and although we did not get the injunction, our actions have given us the time we needed to keep raw milk alive in California. We have reached only about 67 percent of our goal. To donate, go to https://www.ptfassociates.com/secure/ftcldf/donation_form_rawmilk.asp or call (703) 208-3276 (10 am – 6 pm EST) or send to Farm-to-Consumer Foundation (FTCF) – CA Raw Milk, 8116 Arlington Boulevard, #263, Falls Church, VA 22042. Donations to FTCF are tax-deductible.
We will keep you updated on the situation as it progresses. Thank you in advance for your continued efforts on behalf of raw milk in California.
CONTACT INFORMATION FOR ASSEMBLY HEALTH COMMITTEE
Mervyn M. Dymally – Chair Dem-52
Assemblymember.dymally (at) assembly.ca.gov
Alan Nakanishi – Vice Chair Rep-10
Assemblymember.nakanishi (at) assembly.ca.gov
Patty Berg Dem-1
Assemblymember.berg (at) assembly.ca.gov
Wilmer Amina Carter Dem-62
Assemblymember.Carter (at) assembly.ca.gov
Hector De La Torre Dem-50
Assemblymember.DeLaTorre (at) assembly.ca.gov
Kevin de Leon Dem-45
Assemblymember.deLeon (at) assembly.ca.gov
Bill Emmerson Rep-63
Assemblymember.emmerson (at) assembly.ca.gov
Ted Gaines Rep-4
Assemblymember.Gaines (at) assembly.ca.gov
Mary Hayashi Dem-18
Assemblymember.Hayashi (at) assembly.ca.gov
Edward P. Hernandez Dem-57
Assemblymember.Hernandez (at) assembly.ca.gov
Bob Huff Rep-60
Assemblymember.huff (at) assembly.ca.gov
Dave Jones Dem-9
Assemblymember.jones (at) assembly.ca.gov
Sally J. Lieber Dem-22
Assemblywoman.lieber (at) assembly.ca.gov
Fiona Ma Dem-12
Assemblymember.Ma (at) assembly.ca.gov
Mary Salas Dem-79
Assemblymember.Salas (at) assembly.ca.gov
Audra Strickland Rep-37
Assemblymember.strickland (at) assembly.ca.gov
Press Release on CDC Report
CDC REPORT ON CALIFORNIA ILLNESS
SHOWS CONTINUED GOVERNMENT BIAS AGAINST RAW MILK
Numerous Errors and Misstatements Demonstrate Agency’s Rush to Judgment Against Nature’s Perfect Food
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
A Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report [www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5723a2.htm] issued June 13, 2008 has been carefully crafted to implicate raw milk from Organic Pastures Dairy in California (“Dairy A,” OPDC) with six cases of E. coli O157:H7 illness. The illnesses occurred at the height of the California E. coli outbreak associated with contaminated Dole brand baby spinach, which resulted in over 200 cases and three deaths.
According to the CDC report, raw dairy products from the dairy were allegedly associated with two hospitalizations and four additional illnesses, yet the report itself contradicts this conclusion. To begin, the report noted that the alleged outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 that was found in the children was not found in any of OPDC’s samples. Also, the report admits that no E. coli was found in any of the environmental samples collected at the milk plant. Moreover, the report states that samples from three heifers yielded a different strain of E.coli O157:H7 yet the report fails to state that those three heifers were not even producing milk at the time. Nevertheless, the CDC sought to place blame on the dairy products because some of the product samples contained somewhat elevated counts of beneficial bacteria, which are destroyed by pasteurization.
“This is another in a long line of examples of raw milk serving as the whipping boy for other foods known to cause disease,” says Sally Fallon, President of the Weston A. Price Foundation, a non-profit nutrition education foundation that promotes the consumption of raw milk from pasture-fed cows. “There is no credible proof that raw milk caused illness in these children. Government officials should be focusing on the known vectors of the rare form of virulent E. coli, such as leafy greens and hamburger from cows kept in filthy confinement operations.”
“The CDC official Report and the accompanying editorial were very carefully crafted to shed the worse possible light on raw milk,” says Taaron Meikle, president of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund. “CDC, either deliberately or out of ignorance, omitted several important facts and made a number of unsupported assumptions. For example, many of the samples were taken from products approaching their expiration dates on retail shelves and therefore would be expected to have higher bacteria results. Raw milk beneficial bacteria counts grow over time because raw milk is a live food containing bacteria similar to the bacteria in yoghurt. The CDC and HHS [US Department of Health and Human Services] say this is evidence of contamination. However, these agencies do not consider the presence of beneficial bacteria in yoghurt as evidence of contamination.”
The CDC report noted that one of the children ill with the rare virulent strain of E. coli did not consume raw milk products. No information is given on other likely vectors of disease in the children, such as contaminated water or spinach. In fact, both children had consumed spinach prior to the illness. By omitting data on other possible vectors of infection, the CDC was able to impute cause and effect based on a mere association of raw milk with illness. As a California health official admitted at recent raw milk hearings, an association is not the same as a proven cause.
As an example of governmental rush-to-judgment mentality, the CDC report mis-identifies the gender of one of the hospitalized children. “Government anti-raw milk forces have an ideological preference for conclusions rather than facts,” says Fallon.
The two children who became gravely ill with HUS (Hemolytic-uremic syndrome) and were subsequently hospitalized had been treated with antibiotics, even though they had armbands warning against such treatment, another fact omitted in the CDC report. Antibiotics are expressly contraindicated in cases of E. coli O157:H7 as they cause an overload of shiga toxin, which can result in kidney damage.
There were no other reports of illness in Organic Pasture’s 40,000 raw milk customers. If raw milk from the dairy had contained the pathogen, many consumers would have become sick.
Shortly after the reported illnesses, the State of California quarantined Organic Pastures raw milk products. Recognizing their error, they lifted the quarantine one day later but waited another eight days to release the products. Organic Pastures subsequently received a settlement from the State of $11,700 for loss of product as the state had no proof that raw milk had caused the illnesses.
In 2007, the FDA posted similar claims about Organic Pastures raw milk causing this outbreak, but the agency later removed the statements after a representative of the dairy pointed out the false nature of the allegations.
The CDC report makes no mention of the many other foods that have caused over 30 serious outbreaks of E. coli O157:H7 since 1982, including beef, sausage, orange juice, lettuce, spinach, tomatoes and water, outbreaks that sickened large numbers of people. The agency makes no categorical recommendation to avoid all such products for all time as it does with raw milk. “This double standard against raw milk has a long history,” says Fallon. “We find this bias in virtually all the published reports of illness reputedly caused by raw milk.” (For additional examples, see realmilk.com/documents/SheehanPowerPointResponse.pdf.)
The most serious unwarranted CDC allegation is the claim that stricter coliform limits could have prevented the outbreak. Such a claim is simply not true. There is no relationship between the presence of a coliform and the presence of a pathogen. In recent California courtroom testimony, highly qualified experts in microbiology and disease testified that low coliform standards are not an effective way to control pathogens in raw milk and that a much better standard of safety is direct testing for pathogens. Moreover, experts from the State of California even admitted that milk which is low in coliforms could be high in pathogens, or high in coliforms with no pathogens present. Finally, all the experts agreed that if coliforms are present in raw milk, they will double at room temperature in only 20 minutes. In fact, in raw milk, the absence of coliforms can make the product more vulnerable to pathogens. Thus, CDC findings do not support the conclusion “that if raw milk had been subject to the same coliform standard as pasteurized milk in California, milk from dairy A (OPDC) might have been excluded from sale and this outbreak might have been averted.”
Even though pasteurized milk must meet the 10-coliform standard, there have been many outbreaks of illness caused by pasteurized milk, including an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes from pasteurized milk in 2007, resulting in three deaths in the state of Massachusetts. “A strict coliform limit does not guarantee protection against pathogens,” says Meikle.
In 2007, without notice, hearings or debate, California passed AB 1735 mandating a 10-coliform limit for raw market milk, the same standard used in pasteurized milk as a test for successful pasteurization. This impossibly low standard will have the effect of putting California’s two raw milk dairies out of business.
On June 9, California State Senator Dean Florez, together with Senator Perata and Assemblymember Berryhill introduced Senate Bill 201, “The Fresh Raw Milk Act of 2008,” which would replace AB1735 with a more rational standard for raw milk safety. The emergency bill mandates a HAACP plan for raw milk dairies and frequent testing for pathogens. A hearing before the Assembly Health Committee is scheduled for June 24 at 1:30 pm in Room 4204 at the State Capitol.
The Weston A. Price Foundation is a 501c3 nutrition education non-profit, dedicated to fostering a return to nutrient dense foods and traditional farming methods, such as raising livestock on pasture. The Weston A. Price Foundation is based in Washington DC and has 400 chapters and 10,000 members worldwide. The state of California is its largest base of support with 25 chapters and 1185 members statewide.
Kimberly Hartke (703) 675-5557, kimberly (at) hartkeonline.com
California Real Milk Association, CREMA, crema (at) omworks.us