Raw Milk As Political Theater: Lawyers Join Media in Jockeying for Competitive Position

It continues to amaze me how controversial and provocative a topic raw milk is. Every few weeks, it seems, more media outlets are writing and broadcasting about it. In media lingo, raw milk “has legs.”

Most recently, a Washington, DC, NPR station promoted a debate between Sally Fallon of the Weston A. Price Foundation, and Bill Marler, the product liability lawyer. The two debaters threw brickbats at each other, including not a few exaggerations and half-truths.

For instance, they traded jabs about the illness outbreak affecting six children attributed to Organic Pastures Dairy Co. five years ago, in 2006. Fallon continued to say, as she has on a number of occasions, that the two children who became most seriously ill had eaten spinach (the outbreak occurred in the midst of an outbreak of illness from raw spinach) even though the genetic imprint of the E.coli 0157:H7 isolated from several of the children was different from that of the spinach oubreak. I’m not sure why she dwells on that particular inaccuracy, which upsets the families involved no end.

And Marler? He argued as if it’s a simple fact of law that the Amish farmer Daniel Allgyer (the target of a U.S. Food and Drug Administration suit last April seeking a permanent injunction against the shipping of his milk to Maryland) was guilty of “the sale of raw milk across state lines, which is illegal and has been since the late ’80s…” Never mind that the private distribution that occurred wasn’t necessarily “interstate commerce,” and hasn’t been decided by a court–details, details.

And he repeated his cute little quarter-truth about “the reality of the science that raw milk, you know, is a product because of the location of the cow’s teets to the cow’s anus, the likelihood of getting it contaminated is high…”, ignoring the reality that most dairies use automated milking machines that prevent milk from ever coming close “to the cow’s anus,” and that the likelihood of contamination is in fact quite low.

But debates about raw milk attract consumers, and get them riled up. Just look at the comments following the Fallon-Marler debate. (Yes, I’m part of this media obsession, though like to think I’m different because I’m not partaking on a one-shot or sometime basis.)

The anti-raw milk Web site Real Raw Milk Facts has just come out with documentation of its success in attracting visitors, in an academic “poster” being presented at a conference next week.

The media competitiveness is rubbing off on lawyers, more of whom are angling for business representing individuals allegedly sickened by raw milk. Ron Simon (“My Food Poisoning Lawyer”), has been bragging about his new client in Texas*, growing out of allegedly contaminated raw milk there a few months back.

Link here to Simon’s post: http://www.myfoodpoisoninglawyer.com/2011/07/simon-luke-pursues-raw-milk-salmonella-claims-against-lavon-farms

And as I reported last week, a Minneapolis law firm is handling a case involving Michael Hartmann, the Minnesota farmer being blamed for selling raw milk tainted with E.coli 0157:H7.

Certainly a big part of the reason raw milk is such a provocative discussion topic is that the public health people have used it to deflect attention from truly serious public health problems that the professionals seem unwilling or unable to deal with. As the discussion following my previous post makes clear, there is much disagreement in the scientific community about how campylobacter acts as a food pathogen.

Several of the links highlight the issue. One scientific publication says campylobacter can’t survive with oxygen, yet adapts by creating a biofilm.

Another says it survives in meat by attaching to pseudomomas. And there is much disagreement about how long it survives in any event.

Yet the public health community acts as if it knows everything it needs to know, as if it has ownership of “truth.” Never mind that it can’t figure out a to keep campylobacter (and salmonella) out of two-thirds of our chicken supply. Do public health officials worry about that? No, they just ignore it, and the many thousands of illnesses a year that result, and obsess instead about raw milk.

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41 Comments on "Raw Milk As Political Theater: Lawyers Join Media in Jockeying for Competitive Position"

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Amanda Rose
August 4, 2011 9:52 pm

Mark McAfee said,"Amanda Rose. What can I say to you? Not one drop of raw milk has ever been bottled at OP that did not come from OP cows. Not one drop.Your horrible statements about OP raw milk are regretful and baseless. You have some weird witchy."I'm sorry if I said something about your *milk,* I meant your butter, cheese, cream, and colostrum, all of which you yourself have admitted to outsourcing. Eager readers can search this very blog to find lots of confusion on that matter — mainly by you. An examination of your proprietary Milk Pool records would… Read more »

Sylvia Gibson
August 3, 2011 4:47 am
The Complete Patient
August 3, 2011 1:54 am

Steve, I agree there were some interesting points of agreement, or sort-of agreement between Bill Marler and Sally Fallon in the radio debate. If this were a rational disagreement between parties, it might signify important common ground. Unfortunately, the conflict here is at heart an ideological one, and as such, overladen with heavy doses of emotion. You can get more of that feel in Bill Marler's recap of the debate on his site. http://www.marlerblog.com/lawyer-oped/dead-milk-23-magic-milk-202/Lots of haughtiness and condescension. Not till you get to the point of respect from each side of the other will serious bridge-building be possible, I'm afraid.… Read more »

August 2, 2011 11:26 pm

http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/299 "A TOTAL ECONOMY is one in which everythinglife forms, for instance,or the right to pollute is private property and has a price and is for sale. In a total economy significant and sometimes critical choices that once belonged to individuals or communities become the property of corporations." "A total economy is an unrestrained taking of profits from the disintegration of nations: communities, households, landscapes, and ecosystems. It licenses symbolic or artificial wealth to grow by means of the destruction of the real wealth of all the world" "In default of government protections against the total economy of the supranational… Read more »

Bill Anderson
August 2, 2011 9:42 pm

Hi John M,I am very familiar with Austrian economics and with closeted-racist Lew Rockwell's website. I cannot help but be extremely skeptical of an economic theory that is so certain of itself that it does not see the need to test its own assumptions using the scientific method. To suggest that the study of economics is "A Priori", is to blindly accept the unspoken class biases built into the structure of our society.In America, our ruling class is the business and banking class — in other words, the capitalist class. There is never and never will be such a thing… Read more »

damaged justice
August 2, 2011 8:18 pm

Protecting someone may be fine, depending on their age, wisdom, and your relationship with them. Protecting them against their will may even be a regrettable necessity, depending on those factors. But I will never agree that it is right and proper to put a gun to the head of someone who is not violating anyone's rights and say, "If you don't obey me, I'll blow your brains out." Who will protect us from that kind of mafia-style "protection"?

Steve Bemis
August 2, 2011 7:44 pm
Mary Martin
August 2, 2011 7:36 pm

Mark,If 13 kids became ill in Louisiana in 2006 and they all had the same matching blueprint, then this information would be in the PulseNet database at the CDC. This is typically who spots that an outbreak is occurring. A cluster of matching blueprints of a pathogen start showing up. To know that it was a different blueprint from the Dole spinach outbreak, they had to have had fecal samples taken. So they drank green smoothies made from spinach. If it was California spinach, what was the brand that they ate? Was it a different brand of packaged spinach, or… Read more »

John M
August 2, 2011 6:17 pm

Bill,"Humans naturally have strong egalitarian instincts. We are tribal animals with an incredible capacity for cooperation and empathy. It is only under capitalism (where our instincts of solidarity and empathy are systematically undermined by the corporate power structure and competative "free market" system) that greed flourishes."I would suggest you read Mises and others, from places such as these mises.org or other perhaps lewrockwell.com as a start. I was a trained economist and finance major, and started out with a more middle of the road position on economics, societal structure, government, etc. I have come to realize that much of what… Read more »

Violet Willis
August 3, 2011 7:58 am

Mary,Was the e-coli strain that your son was sickened . . . . actually found on Mark's farm?Remember . . . . e-coli can be found on hands . . . and transmitted that way.Drinking Mark's milk and eating spinach was coincidental . . . no e-coli matching your son's strain was found on Mark's farm.I have a hunch that someone who washed the spinach that your son ate . . . harbored the e-coli that sickened him. . . . anyone else out there agree with me?My husband had a MRSA infection years ago right before we moved to… Read more »

John M
August 3, 2011 6:41 pm

Bill wroteI am very familiar with Austrian economics and with closeted-racist Lew Rockwell's website.***Hmm… give me one clear example of him being a "racist." Oh, I bet… you disagree with his views on immigration? Strange. He has many African American contributors to his site… that seems very racist, doesn't it, to have people of other races and nationalities write on your site… But anyone who doesn't agree with a certain view of immigration must be a xenophobe. You just pulled a "glen beck." Now I see why so many are terrified of RAWMI if this is how you handle other… Read more »

milk farmer
August 4, 2011 4:34 am

They want war, that's what they're gonna get.

Don Neeper
August 4, 2011 2:35 am

More information on the current Rawesome Foods raid:


"Devon Read reports on our wall:
Rawesome's proprietor has been arrested on $123,000 bail and $10,000 of raw milk has been poured out"

"CDFA says they are not 'dealing with' the Rawesome raid and to call the District Attorney's office 213-974-3512. Ya'll call!"

Ingvar Odegaard
August 4, 2011 1:53 am

Wasn't Rawesome raided last year?

Joseph Heckman
August 4, 2011 1:39 am
Bill Anderson
August 4, 2011 1:24 am

Ken-I hope you are aware than Hellen Keller was a socialist.John M-There is some very damning evidence of Lew Rockwell's racism, or (perhaps?) his willingness to pander to racist elements as a way to build a right-wing political movement. Please see this:http://reason.com/archives/2008/01/16/who-wrote-ron-pauls-newsletterAnd yes, I do take exception to Ron Paul's and Rockwell's reactionary position on immigration. If implemented, it will result in a massive expasion of police-state powers, and systematic racism on a scale we haven't seen since the days of segregation in the old south.As far as the general philosophy of "libertarian" economics goes — It is pure escapism… Read more »

Don Neeper
August 4, 2011 12:45 am

The Weston A. Price Foundation just issued the following post on Facebook:

"Rawsome Farm Buying Club is being raided again at this moment! If you live in LA, please take a video camera over there! 665 Rose Avenue, Venice, CA"

Ken Conrad
August 3, 2011 9:32 pm

John MPeople are inherently evil so says the bible, and the idea that they only act evil based on the "social structures" or external they find themselves makes no sense. It kicks the can on where and why evil exists, offering no explanation at the end of the day. Social structures are the result of… people. The evil/greed/etc. is found within us, which is why all these attempts at changing things "out there" around people have never, ever worked to reform society… on the contrary, as CS Lewis has pointed out, this move has resulted in soceity's slide into ever… Read more »

Ken Conrad
August 3, 2011 8:39 pm

VioletI agree with you.It is a complex issue that needs to be better understood. We are being led astray by an asserted ability to genetically identify organisms, a process that in reality that does little more then cater to our ascendant nature which in turn fuels our obsession to control that which for all intents and purposes is beyond our control.As a result we are faced with officials who are more concerned with manipulating and saturating life forms and the environment with numerous toxins while at the same time living in denial of the harm that they forcibly and forcefully… Read more »

Mark McAfee
August 2, 2011 11:47 am

In September 2006 13 kids in Louisiana became ill after eating green smoothies from CA spinach. The DNA did not match the CA spinach finger prints. Bottom line, there were multiple spinach finger prints. The investigators refused to look at this hard core data. It was politically incorrect. Now…..why should I agree to epidemiologic evidence when those that compiled the evidence hate raw milk. They have shown this hatred many times after 2006. They are irrational and make nothing of 1600 illnesses and a mountain-range out of 2 illnesses As much as I would like to roll over and agree… Read more »

Steve Bemis
August 2, 2011 11:10 am

Mary, I agree, there is no perfectly safe food, raw milk or otherwise, nor is there a perfectly immune gut, for reasons which we will probably never understand.

Mary Martin
August 2, 2011 10:51 am

Steve,The danger with the Campylobacter recommendations is that it can be constructed into, If you wait a few days before drinking raw milk and make sure that some oxygen is in the bottle, all campylobacter will die and the milk is safe to drink. Best practices is not the same as saying, Do this and it will kill the pathogens. These are Sallys exact words: Campylobacter is very common at this time of year. It does not last in raw milk. In fact, if you keep raw milk in the refrigerator for a couple of days with some air at… Read more »

Sylvia Gibson
August 2, 2011 4:35 am

From Mark's link: ""Our first goal is the safety of our customers."Hmm, when was the last time you heard a statement like that when raw milk was recalled? If I am not mistaken, you will have a hard time finding a similar quote. However, you will have no trouble finding – "the outbreak did not happen," "the illnesses were caused by spinach," "the illnesses were caused by the doctors," "the illnesses were caused by the victims," "the lawyer made it up," and the old favorite, "it is a conspiracy between public health and big ag."Perhaps he should read more carefully.… Read more »

Mark McAfee
August 2, 2011 3:52 am


I know that OPDC is an interesting pioneering subject to write about and discuss. But….what about the little discussed 1600 CA people sickened in 2006 from pasteurized milk and campylobacter.


Never understood how 2 people becomes more interesting and important than 1600 people.

Kill one person….you are guilty of capital murder….kill tens of thousands you are a celebrated conquerer.

Pasteurized milk is not perfect….here is the latest outbreak from dead ( or not so dead ) milk.


Bill Anderson
August 2, 2011 2:20 am

Here's another peice of corporate propoganda coming from the same dairy research institution who proved to us that campylobacter can't grow in milk:


Of course, the study totally fails to looks at other factors like fatty acid composition, mineral content, or the richness of the milk, much less factors like the presence of cancer-causing agents because of the use of rBGH and GMO feeds.

Talk about biased greed-driven research!!

Bill Anderson
August 2, 2011 1:47 am

So either we must accept the profit motive as the only "free" way of organizing society, or we must be slaves? Say what? False Dichotomy?Humans naturally have strong egalitarian instincts. We are tribal animals with an incredible capacity for cooperation and empathy. It is only under capitalism (where our instincts of solidarity and empathy are systematically undermined by the corporate power structure and competative "free market" system) that greed flourishes.Bill Marler is as good an example of this as any. I continue to empathize with the victims of Hartmann's dirty milk, and have been attacked left and right here for… Read more »

damaged justice
August 1, 2011 10:52 pm

I see that your concluding question presents a false dichotomy. But since I no longer feel the need to argue why freedom is more efficient than slavery, I'll instead remain silent and continue to learn from those like you who know more about real practical science, as well as my own experience.

Bill Anderson
August 1, 2011 10:15 pm

David was nice enough not to point out Bill Marler's startling hypocricy on the Hartmann situation. But I will pull no punches on this one.I couldn't help but notice how incessant Marler was in his demonization of Hartmann, early this year and late last year, because of Hartmann's many food safety trespasses. For a while I thought this may be because Marler actually had a genuine concern for the victims of Hartmann's dirty milk.Today, there is a strikingly different tone on Marler's blog. I have not heard one peep from him about Hartmann. Instead he has decided to create red… Read more »

Ken Conrad
August 1, 2011 6:17 pm

Rather then test animal waste and/or their product perhaps officials should be setting up fly traps and testing the flies?We all know how flies tend to land, scurry around and defecate on the rim of a glass, cup or beer bottle especially after we have just placed our lips there to have a drink. Since flies are known to act as vectors this is all good in my opinion, nevertheless for those who think it is not good perhaps they should add fly shit to their blame list.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC555947/Could flies explain the elusive epidemiology of campylobacteriosis?Unlike salmonellosis with well-known routes of… Read more »

Bill Anderson
August 1, 2011 12:07 pm

MW-The Doyle and Roman study is not about competative inhibition. Rather is it about the natural death curve of campy in millk (both raw and steralized milk).Here are my comments about that study, which I will post once again:Though this study confirms what many in the raw milk movement have said (that campylobacter can only expire in milk, and cannot grow) I have criticized this study in the past as being completely unrealistic. Why? Because the researchers have inoculated an unrealistic quantity of campylobacter into the milk — around 10^7 per mL (or 1 million campy cells per mL). As… Read more »

Mark McAfee
August 2, 2011 6:45 am

2 people more important than 1600……

Mark McAfee
August 2, 2011 7:30 am

I guess the real numbers do not matter….this is a war to get rid of raw milk. This is a battle for raw milk survival so consumers have choices and a nutritional options for immune rebuilding, asthma prevention and true health. So….to me all that matters is the production of the safest raw milk possible and avoidance of wearing a target. The pasteurized milk producer that was associated with illnesses, should take public media management 1A one more time. Shut your mouth and just ask for everyones prayers for the quick recovery of anyone that is ill….refuse to respond to… Read more »

Violet Willis
August 2, 2011 9:31 am

Until we can answer this question:Why does Tyson, Pilgrim Pride, Purdue, etc. . . . have the ability to sell raw poultry with a 70% or more contmaination rate of Salmonella (my husband was infected by one of these industial food producers with Salmonella in the late 80's and spent over a week in the hospital and btw no one from the FDA was on his case)?I need to see the Marler's out there going after the CAFO farms before the raw milk producers. David is right . . . . raw milk is nothing but a red herring. The… Read more »

Amanda Rose
August 2, 2011 9:31 am

David,I am lactating right now and agree with Mary's assessment above. What separates the relative cleanliness of my milk from a cow's is that I don't sleep naked in manure. My child also only gets my milk, is exposed only to my crap, and develops an immunity. It's easier for them to adapt to the milk of their own mother than to a herd of cows 100 miles away.On 2006, was consumer fraud (outsourcing) involved in that prison case? If so, it would make that outbreak suck just about as much as the OPDC outbreak. What I don't get is… Read more »

Mark McAfee
August 2, 2011 9:24 am

What the Stanford study did was clearly identify a new syndrome called Pasteurization Intolerance. Now we need more money to study Pasteurization Intolerance. No money standing in line for this question. Research questions are studied by the money brought to the universities. No money no research. Each and every raw milk consumers has completed their own irrefutable studies and they do not need a university to tell them that they do not have gut cramps or gas pains with raw milkOne simple thing tells all raw milk markets show that people trust their own studies alot.

Steve Bemis
August 2, 2011 9:12 am

Bill – thank you for explaining the Doyle and Roman study, with its typical reductionist attempt to study the real world in a test-tube, and attendant distortions and ambiguous meanings.Quite aside from its behavior in raw milk, there is little doubt that campylobacter is adversely affected by both oxygen and by passage of time. Given such characteristics, I am truly puzzled by the vigorous reaction which the previous string of comments elicited, apparently directed against the simple handling suggestions for raw milk, e.g. rotate the supply so that the oldest milk is consumed first (thereby permitting time to work against… Read more »

Mark McAfee
August 2, 2011 9:09 am

As a raw milk freedom fighter and food safety advocate you guys have given me a very target rich environment. Let me start by saying that the recently developed raw milk chart shown by Marler and gang was produced in part by Dr. Mike Payne of UCDavis WIFSS and is a hard core raw milk hater and not a scientist. Secondly, The chart refers to the Stanford Lactose Intolerance study. This study has yet to be officially published or peer reviewed. I met personally with Dr. Chris Gardner right after the initial study was completed and the first data was… Read more »

Mary Martin
August 2, 2011 8:19 am

David, remember this video.? http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2011399591_rawmilk21m.html?prmid=related_stories_section

I think this is what Bill is referring too. Poop comes out of the anus and onto the teats and if they are not cleaned properly before the milking machine is attached, contamination can occur. I doubt this farmer would pass the new RAWMI standards.


Concerned Person
August 2, 2011 8:08 am

Mark, how can you say it was the milk that sickened 1,600? Where is the proof? They never found the Campy in milk samples. Are you saying you accept epidemiological evidence for this outbreak, but not for raw milk outbreaks?

Also, nice to see you using the Marler Clark Outbreak database.

You have your numbers wrong for the OPDC outbreak. There were 6 kids who became ill, not two. Too bad the other 4 never had a chance to have a voice.

The Complete Patient
August 2, 2011 7:31 am

Mark, I actually wrote about the outbreak from pasteurized milk that sickened 1,600 prisoners in California, in "The Raw Milk Revolution". One of many that don't get a lot of attention. I'd say the reason "two people becomes more interesting…than 1,600" stems from the continued inaccurate statements about the 2006 E.coli 0157:H7 outbreak in California, most likely from raw milk. Those inaccurate statements, such as the one I cited in my post, give opponents to nutrient-dense foods a great opportunity to deflect attention from sometimes-larger events, like the California prison outbreak from pasteurized milk. They love distractions, seek them out.… Read more »

Milky Way
August 1, 2011 11:43 am


Good point. What's you opinion on the other points?