NJ Caught Up in Raw-Milk Dragnet with a Twist

Coolers from The Family Cow farm of Pennsylvania at a drop-off point near the New Jersey border, in 2014.

It’s highly unusual for food regulators in a raw milk enforcement crackdown to visit private homes and threaten consumers. The only place I know of where this has happened is Minnesota. Back in 2012, state regulators actually obtained a search warrant and raided one home, scaring the bejesus out of the owners. Regulators also issued warning letters to about nine or ten other consumers, essentially telling them they could face fines or even jail if they continued using their residences as drop sites.

No other state state has taken the Minnesota path…..until now. Within the last two weeks, at least one investigator from the New Jersey Department of Health has visited private homes in at least four towns that serve as drop sites for private food clubs, taking photos of food coolers and warning consumers they could face fines or other legal penalties, presumably for using their homes as pickup points for raw dairy and other food for their local neighborhoods.

Perhaps New Jersey regulators feel emboldened in targeting consumers because of the agency’s special enforcement wrinkle: All the communities targeted by the investigation thus far appear to be in neighborhoods heavily populated by immigrants from India.

I’m restricted in the details I can provide because the targeted individuals are understandably terrified about what has occurred and have only agreed to speak about the crackdown on the condition I not provide identifying information about them. Immigrants, even those in the U.S. legally, tend to be nervous about potentially having their immigration status somehow challenged, especially in today’s U.S., where immigrants without proper papers are being rounded up and deported back to their countries of origin.

When I inquired with the New Jersey Department of Health about the investigation and its unusual targets, I was met with a stone wall. “The New Jersey Department of Health is unable to confirm or deny if an investigation is ongoing,” a spokeswoman emailed me in terse response to a series of questions I sent inquiring into the nature of the investigation and why it appeared to be targeting Indian immigrants.

Among the questions I had wanted answered:

-Is there a connection to the recent regulatory concerns over Udder Milk?  Udder bills itself as a “creamery coop,” or “a creamery on wheels.” It has been under regulatory pressure in New York and New Jersey because of contentions by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that its milk sickened a woman with brucellosis, which is a pathogen that can kill cows. According to the FDA, the strain that infected the woman was “a weakened strain used to vaccinate young female cattle against infection with more serious strains of Brucella.”

However, none of the homes visited by the NJ investigator was known to be receiving milk from Udder.

-What is the role of the FDA in the New Jersey dragnet? The FDA is invariably involved, at least in the background, with state agencies that crack down on raw milk, especially if it potentially involves out-of-state milk.

-Would the investigation have anything to do with the the politics of raw milk?  For example, raw milk advocates are currently in the process of renewing efforts to legalize the sale of raw milk in New Jersey. Several previous initiatives have failed in the NJ legislature. There is also a pending citizen petition filed last April with the FDA by the Real Food Citizen Coalition (RFCC) to lift the interstate prohibition on raw milk; it would make enforcement concerns like those of New Jersey moot, since properly labeled raw milk could be brought into New Jersey without penalty.

-Why would New Jersey authorities be targeting raw milk consumed by immigrants?   Though NJ is one of fewer than a dozen states that still prohibit the sale of raw milk, its residents who want it have been assumed to obtain it from one of its neighbors like Pennsylvania or New York, where raw milk is fairly widely available. It turns out that New Jersey has quietly developed a fairly active private food club movement over the years, with the bulk of members consisting of Weston A. Price Foundation types.

But a significant minority of NJ raw milk consumers are from India. They apparently prize raw milk in particular because it is natural and unhomogenized, allowing for easy preparation of butter and cheeses. They are understood to boil the milk first, essentially self pasteurizing it, as they were accustomed to doing in their home country.

So, as of now, it’s impossible to know exactly what prompted the NJ investigation or where it will go from here. In Minnesota five years ago, no one was actually penalized that I know of, simply because the tactic of trying to penalize people for consuming particular foods has always been doomed to failure, since Americans generally wouldn’t stand for it—they’ll complain to their local political representatives—and the resulting publicity winds up embarrassing the regulators. So regulators have mostly focused their anti-raw-milk venom on raw dairy farmers, since there are far fewer of them than consumers. But that was then. Might regulators now be testing out whether the old standards still apply?

25 comments to NJ Caught Up in Raw-Milk Dragnet with a Twist

  • Zak

    Very good article David. Again, you are ahead of the rest in revealing real news regarding real food! Thank you!!

    Walid Abdul-Wahab (Desert Farms) CA — Moaz Fouda (Udder Milk) NJ — and now another group with immigrants from India? Not aware of any of their religious beliefs, however, at first glance it seems like profiling against centuries old healthy cultural practices by immigrants possibly as a strategy to garner less backlash from the American public? Many customs and cultures throughout the world have a very strong Spiritual nexus to cows (as well as – buffalo, goat, sheep and camel) and their raw-milk. Their Spiritual and physical well-being depends on it.

    I would think that RFCC’s Citizen’s Petition (labeling and transportation) would be critical should NJ/FDA be attempting to make a move… Would like to hear Liz Reitzig’s take on this. Looking forward to hearing more from you as this heart wrenching story unfolds.

    • David Gumpert David Gumpert

      Zak, thank you. I sure hope the NJ situation isn’t part of a larger system of profiling, because then you’re talking about using food as a weapon to achieve particular political goals (like scapegoating immigrants). That’s nearly always very bad news for everyone, no matter where they stand on the particular case in point.

      I agree that if RFCC’s Citizen’s Petition had been accepted by the FDA and were in effect, we wouldn’t be having this particular problem in NJ, or any of the problems Mr. March describes. You can never eliminate a black market for products people desperately want and need. The Citizen’s Petition would take a lot of the pressure off the regulators.

  • Bill

    The CDC is busy inflaming state employee attitudes against raw milk. See this recent presentation given at the latest NADRO conference this year – http://www.nadro.org/uploads/Nichols_CDC_NADRO_2017.pdf

    Makes reference to a letter which had been sent out to state governments in 2014 – see https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/pdfs/raw-milk-letter-to-states-2014-508c.pdf

    Unless the raw milk community begins to challenge the conclusions of the “science” that this anti-raw milk campaign is based upon, it is not going to win. We can say all we like about 43 states now having legal raw milk, but as an acquaintance who tracks such things pointed out, all efforts this past year to either legalize raw milk or liberalize existing laws fell flat – either were defeated or were sent off to die in committee, with “public health” concerns being first and foremost the issues raised. The “food safety lobby” is fighting back by launching a campaign to “educate” state regulators about how “dangerous” raw milk is. IMHO, the raw milk community may need to start to dialogue with the same regulators, or else further legalization may be dead in the water.

  • Shana Milkie

    Thank you for bringing this investigation to light, David. It is yet again another instance of regulators targeting people who understandably are reluctant to call attention to themselves or to defend themselves in the mainstream U.S. legal system, similar to efforts against Amish and Mennonite people.

    And thanks for the reminder about the RFCC citizen petition – that is something anyone who values access to raw milk should support!

  • If the gov’t truly wanted to protect people’s health, it would enact free healthcare for all….

  • Sue

    David –

    Food IS a weapon in the right hands, just like nuclear power. Profiling is another issue, and one we have also seen in the past to have catastrophic consequences.

    I might sound a bit hypocritical here (since I have not been much involved publicly for quite some time) but we all have to continue to stand together – doesn’t matter if we are natural citizens, immigrants or ??. We are all still people and we all deserve (and must, apparently continually DEMAND) access to safe foods of our choosing. Government be damned.

    Of course this extends to other issues as well – medicine, power, transportation, housing etc. But without food, none of the others matter.

    Thank you so much for all you do!!! While I still scan, I would not have the information nor the wherewithal these days to act on much of this without your MUCH appreciated aid.

    Many blessings to everybody here –

    GS

    • David Gumpert David Gumpert

      Sue, your point about the need for everyone involved in food rights cause to “stand together” is well taken. There are some in that cause who buy into the narrative that blames immigrants for all manner of problems, and may not want to “stand together” with immigrants over raw milk abuses of immigrants. That would pose a big problem, and may be part of what’s motivating the NJ authorities–they would like nothing more than to divide raw milk advocates.

  • Bill, your link to NADRO was very informative.

    The NADRO Power Point was used to expand on perceived lessons learned about how to be more effective in controlling raw milk in general and specifically….lessons learned to more effectively suppress raw milk and exploit its weaknesses.

    You will notice that Milers Organics was a major emphasis.

    Millers is an anomaly of sorts. They don’t test, they are not certified organic and it is not a single source. Instead Millers is a coop of up to nine dairies and many farms that provide products through some kind of online membership deal.

    Most revealing is that inspite of the Miller listeria hysteria….the fda has not acted to shut it down. Instead, Miller is still shipping raw dairy.

    This says so much about the FDA. If they truly cared about food safety, organic certs or other regulatory things they would enforce. But they don’t…

    Instead they just want to give Miller more rope to hang himself. They wait each morning in their offices looking at PulseNet data hoping and praying that they can match an illness with raw milk so they have more ammo against all raw milk….legal or otherwise. That’s been their MO in the past and with this NADRO PP definitely now for sure.

    I find it fascinating that the under reporting error factor for listeria is a 2. While the CDC under reporting factor for ecoli is near 30.

    Listeria is almost always associated with pasteurized milk and not raw…..while ecoli is associated with raw milk. How hugely biased and convenient to use factors that have a massive multiplier effect that’s in favor of pasteurized milks!!!!

    This entire movement must get its crap together and emphasize food safety. If the CDC has nothing to point their finger at….they would have nothing to reticule or politically exploit. Nothing.

    I am all about freedom….freedom is a top priority. I learned 14 years ago, that freedom does not matter in the mind of the FDA, CDC, most state reg agencies etc. what matters instead was a track record of safety. With safety, freedom bells would ring and the opposition would have nothing to challenge of point at.

    It sickens me that the NADRO PP attacks peer reviewed PubMed published articles and fail to acknowledge the most recent EU findings that confirm and double verify earlier raw milk medical benefit findings. They idea that raw milk has no medical benefits is atrocious. We weaken our raw milk freedoms and reduce our power by allowing untested and carelessly produced raw milk to be provided to people…its a stupid move. Its like handing ammunition to the enemy.

    My Farmers over Pharmacies video interviews will document otherwise. Our planned segments include:

    Crohns ( already published )
    Severe asthma recovery
    Bone density
    Ear infections
    Lactose intolerance
    Milk allergies
    Breast milk supply improvement
    Immune system recovery
    Autoimmune system recovery

    Any many more….

    Raw milk is the leading edge of where food becomes medicine. This battle is being won in CA. Why??? Because of good food safety and market building and state laws that are some what reasonable.I am also proud to say that Ed Shank and the Family Cow has done a fantastic job of food safety as well. All RAWMI producers report test data every month. The data is rock solid. This is the rock solid foundation that builds a new and bright defendable future for raw milk!! You don’t win the raw milk fight based on ignorance or a basis of guessing or weak food safety. Which of the three little pigs houses survived the blows of the big bad wolf!!! We must build our raw milk house of solid, well mortared, steel rebar reinforced, food safety bricks to withstand the strongest winds blown from pigs where ever they come from.

    The Heckman article is a great piece. It must be reinforced by RAWMI type food safety work to assure that CDC, NADRO, FDA or others are denied information that can be used to attack raw milk on its historically weak flank.

  • Belle Dessa

    People have been drinking raw milk for ages. It’s when big business, interested ONLY in how to make more bucks, got involved and started telling animal care givers that the animals needed some “new product” to produce more milk, make the milk more nourishing, blah blah blah. Big businness cannot improve on Mother Nature uninterupted.

  • Jan Haybert

    The state and federal Health and Ag Departments as well as legislators are influenced by the Dairy Lobby to crack down on raw milk sales any way they can. The CDC warns against drinking raw milk but raw milk is extremely safe to drink, as it contains good bacteria that will actually kill any bad bacteria. All of the good bacteria, enzymes and vitamins in pasteurized milk have been killed by the process and then vitamins A & D are added back. Do you know the sources of those vitamins? Do some research, people!

  • Mark Mcafee Mark Mcafee

    Jan,

    Sorry to deliver some sobering news. Yes raw milk has innate safety systems. However, they can easily be overwhelmed by at least three things:

    1. Virulent pathogens
    2. A load of pathogens greater than can be fought off by the host immune defenses
    3. A weakened host immunity ( the consumer )

    In today’s world there is zero tolerance for illness especially when there is a farmer to blame. Insursnce is mandatory in order to bring foods to retail markets. Lurking in the darkness… at all times are lawyers that love a consumer with a belly ache or worse. Bingo!!! It’s payday with Pulsenet doing 99% of their investigational diligence for them. It’s like the government is serving up all the evidence to lawyers for free!!

    So please don’t continue to think that raw milk or any food is innately or perfectly safe. That is one of the magical pieces of misinformation that is not helping our cause. When raw milk is produced under the right conditions, with great care and testing, yes… raw milk is very safe, arguably one of the safest foods on earth.

    It’s not fair. It’s not right. But that is the battle ground. We must be smart and strategically battle forward. Safety leads this battle. Then comes freedom! At the very end comes well earned respect and acknowledgement.

  • William March

    Brucellosis is a serious illness that can be caused by consuming raw dairy products or eating undercooked meats .In this country it has been almost eliminated but it does occur
    occasionally .Brucellosis can be a cronic disease that can last a lifetime ,it can be controlled with antibiotics ,however treatment can last many months,it can cause death if it infects the heart .If a person is exposed to it they should seek medical advice .Recently a women in New Jersey contacted the disease by consuming milk purchased from Udder Milk co.The company was issued cease and desist orders to stop selling raw milk in the states N.J. N.Y.CT.R.I. They are back in business under a different name as if nothing happened ,The USDA is attempting to find where Udder purchased the milk but Udder will not reveal it’s source .N.J state officials are going to different neighborhoods advising people that purchased this milk to get medical attention.Udder sold this milk to the public which includes native Americans as well as immigrants from around the world ,since this is the N.Y metro area that would be expected .Immigrants sometimes live together in areas this is the reason persons from India might seem to be picked out .New Jersey is not looking to deport or intimidate Indian people they are advising all persons to get medical advice if they consumed Udder milk .Shipments of raw milk from Lancaster County to all over the USA occur every day with no government interference .I believe when there is a problem it should be owned up to to get it resolved rather than stonewalling ,this would help the raw milk movement .Moaz Fouda and Amos Miller are still in business in spite of the USDA ,FDA CDC and all others .

    • how are you so sure something did happen?

      and if brucellosis is so serious why is it that farmers have to only test they’re cows only once a year
      not once a month along with the usual tests of somatic cell count,antibiotic residue,butterfat level
      Many department of health offices in at least 3 states have told me that brucellosi has almost been irradicated
      kathy from udder milk
      ps your m.o of writing sounds just like when you were speaking with me
      you gave yourself away
      i think i know who this is and it aint william march

    • David Gumpert David Gumpert

      We had a situation in Massachusetts five years ago where a raw milk farmer got sick, and the word from regulators pretty quickly was that it was brucellosis from his milk. Lo and behold, the regulators had to backtrack–the farmer wasn’t sick from brucellosis, and the milk wasn’t a problem. Think the regulators apologized for the screwup?
      http://www.davidgumpert.com/will-herdshares-be-legalized-in-ca-cdfas-chief-vet-expresses-optimism-about-continuing-negotiations-false-alarm-on-brucellosis-in-ma

      As Mr. March says himself, brucellosis can come from other causes besides raw milk, and occurs only rarely in any event. Seems as if further investigation is required in the Udder Milk case.

    • Ken Conrad Ken Conrad

      William,

      The only thing confirmed about the New Jersey woman’s Brucellosis diagnosis is that she acquired the antibiotic-resistant Brucella abortus RB51… a live attenuated genetically engineered vaccine strain of brucellosis that is resistant to the go-to antibiotic treatment of choice by physicians for brucellosis, “Rifampicin”. In other words, the woman’s illness was the result of a vaccine used to inoculate cattle!
      Read, “Human Illness Associated with Use of Veterinary Vaccines”
      https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/37/3/407/437242

      And previously this year in Texas, one woman was reported to also have been infected with the same vaccine strain of Brucella RB51.
      http://www.pharmacytimes.com/resource-centers/gastrointestinal/cdc-raw-milk-from-texas-dairy-contaminated-with-brucella-bacteria

      Officials state that there is no link between the two incidences, yet there definitely is… “THE VACCINE”

      The suggestion by CDC officials that “Anyone who consumed raw milk or raw milk products from Udder Milk in the past six months, especially pregnant women, should immediately seek medical care and start antibiotic therapy for brucellosis” is a typical example of excessive fear mongering.

      I’ve been a livestock farmer (dairy and beef) for over 50 years; have yet to encounter a case of brucellosis or undulant fever, and have never vaccinated for the disease despite the fact that I along with most dairy farmers drink raw milk and feed it to our children, family relatives and friends.

    • Zak

      Thank you for your input Mr. March. A few questions:

      1. Can you share which “[N]ative American” Tribes or Tribal members were sold to and harassed by the NJ agency?

      2. You state Udder Milk is using another name and has gone into hiding yet I see a person named Kathy on here claiming she is with, or founded Udder Milk? What is the name of the business Udder Milk is now selling under?

      3. You claim, “N.J state officials are going to different neighborhoods advising people that purchased this milk to get medical attention.” Is this a blanket operation? Seems like that would be very costly for agents to be going door to door…

      4. You claim that, “New Jersey is not looking to deport or intimidate Indian people…” I do not recall this article being about “deportation.” Why would you mis-inform and try and divert the narrative? It seems like you are implementing initial stages of mass gaslighting.

      To be clear Mr. March, I am not name calling or attacking you in any way. I just find it hard to believe that you are not an agent provocateur trolling raw milk consumer sites and blogs based on your comments I have seen in this thread as well as other social media threads.

      My final question:

      5. You make very specific claims that can only be made by a government agency employee or contractor with inside information. Can you verify your source(s) or are you possibly on a government payroll to distract commenters from the original scope and topic of the pro-raw milk articles you comment on?

  • listeria ,ecoli,camplybacter are all tested once a month
    why is brucellosis not tested once a month as well
    please SOMEONE ANSWER THIS
    AS THIS IS A SERIOUS DISEASE …NO???

  • There are way to many sick people out there and when i hear the stories of how it healed them …how its sustaining them as thats all they are eating because of some rare untreatable disease.how they are not lactose intolerant(they never really were) i tell them they were pasteurization intolerant and homogenization intolerant.when i hear this AND MUCH MORE …I wanna go back on the bus and sit in the white section.
    Isnt that what Rosa Parks did.
    We are suppose to help our fellow american and do no harm.
    We will get to the bottom of this and meet the person who has “allegedly ” gotten sick.As for now
    REAL EYES…RELIZE…REAL LIES

  • David ,I don’t think its and “Indian” thing or a “native american” thing .
    I just wanted to add that I think that its also a war between farmers and others farmers/co-ops vying for an area to take as they’re own for business.We have seen this amongst farmers allready.they want to corner a certain market for sales …maybe big ag cow farms that sell milk are feeling the pinch in sales and the supermarket they sell to as no one wants their crap anymore. so what better way then to slander another farmer or co-op ..make stuff up.pay the right people off,know the right people because of maybe your religion..and your in like flint.No more competion the business slowly comes back to them.. When farmers come in from out of state or a co-op comes in from out of state and that states farmers themselves can’t bring milk to they’re own states people well … they get angry….Again I don’t think there is profiling going on.Its more along the lines of i believe farmers profiling other farmers and co-ops because of GREED
    kathy from udder milk

  • There are leachers and teachers.

    If all raw milk dairymen took a very serious approach to building markets by teaching and outreach, there would be an ever growing market and plenty of consumers for everyone. WAP said it himself….you teach you teach you teach…his last words.

    Unfortunately, so many raw milk dairymen, are not teachers. Hence the market squeeze.

    As far as Brucellosis is concerned, it should be tested from the bulk tank every 90 days. It is not a pathogen like ecoli or listeriosis. It is an infection in the cows that obviously spreads to humans through milk If each state took raw milk seriously, Brucellosis would be a non issue. In CA permitted raw milk dairies are tested regularly.

    In illegal raw milk states….the lack of regs begs the problem. All RAWMI dairies test for Brucelosis as well as TB where appropriate.

    • I think you are underestimating your fellow competitor dairymen Mr.Mcafee.Most are very intelligent
      Mostly all are educated about their cows or they wouldn’t be farmers .
      Whether they are organic or non organic.
      Sorry but you are wrong about problems occurring in states that are illegal.
      Most of the farmers i know do what needs to be done even if there is no law from the government that says to do it.problems with the cows can happen with states that are illegal and legal
      Your state has way took many regulations…why? not for the safety for us but for fundraising methods.And they don’t go to the farmer.
      and the consumer most of the time can know just as much as the dairyman.

  • I just want to add that after the 2nd year of doing our co-op (we are now 12 years) we noticed we were setting the standard…for the price of milk per gallon and half gal and butter per pound and etc…
    when one would go/and still to this day go to farms around the new jersey area and pennsylvania and even new york area we saw and still see that they’re prices were our prices.Even some fancy organic supermarkets we saw and still see them mimicking our prices.I got a bit upset at first but then soon relized it is a free market and just like the government raises the minimum wage for workers.We at UDDERMILK raised the wage for most all farmers near us.The farmers have helped us in more ways then one and we in turn without knowing it have helped them have a better wage on the farm.someone once said that its an inflated price …thats because this kind of milk is loaded and inflated with real butter fat…inflated with real not ‘enriched vitamins .. inflated with real vitamin D and etc…

    Thanx David for posting this. In Peace kathy from Uddermilk (irish /Italian/Welsh /American Woman) and I love my country regardless on what is happening now

  • the ILLEGAL BAN AGAINST CITIZENS on interstate shipment of raw dairy has to end.
    especially…especially where the state governments have an illegal ban on the sale of it! ( weather its on or off the farm)
    There are enough cows for everyones pocketbook. no?

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