Federal health regulators claim to have linked two serious illnesses in elderly individuals from listeria in 2014—one in California and one in Florida that resulted in a death—with Miller’s Organic Farm in Pennsylvania.
Irony of ironies, the feds’ key evidence came from chocolate raw milk seized by local regulators during the Weston A. Price Foundation national conference in Anaheim last November, at least a year after the illnesses. The feds say the 2015 milk contained listeria very similar genetically to listeria found in the two victims in 2014.
Adding uncertainty to the federal claim, Amos Miller, the owner of Miller’s Organic Farm, says he never heard from any of his club’s members about any of them or any of their relatives becoming ill, and knew nothing about the federal claims until yesterday (Thursday) when he heard from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control about its report. People who become ill from what they think is raw milk invariably notify the producer immediately.
“I don’t know that it was proved it’s on the farm here,” Miller said. “We hope and pray for the best.”
What Miller seemed to be suggesting is that the victims, while they might have consumed raw milk, could have become ill from any of a number of other foods that could carry listeria. As just one example, listeria in Blue Bells Creamery pasteurized-milk ice cream last year killed three people and sickened ten. The Florida and California victims and their families seem not to have made a connection to raw milk.
Miller also pointed out that his farm operates only as a private membership club, supplying milk and other farm-grown products to members. It doesn’t distribute to retail stores or other outlets.
According to a statement issued by the CDC, “Collaborative investigative efforts of state, local, and federal public health and regulatory officials indicate that raw milk produced by Miller’s Organic Farm in Bird-In-Hand, Pennsylvania is the likely source of this outbreak.”
The CDC explains the chain of events surrounding the illnesses this way: “In November 2015, samples of raw chocolate milk were collected from a raw milk conference held in Anaheim, California. The raw chocolate milk was produced by Miller’s Organic Farm. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) isolated Listeria from the raw chocolate milk and conducted WGS testing on the isolate to get more genetic information about the bacteria. On January 29, 2016, FDA informed CDC that WGS determined that the Listeria bacteria from the raw chocolate milk was closely related genetically to Listeria bacteria from two people in two states who got sick in 2014, one from California and one from Florida.” The two sickened individuals were 73 and 81 years old, and the Florida victim died from the illness.
According to the CDC, “Once the two illnesses were identified in late January, public health officials worked over several weeks to interview them or their family members about the foods they may have eaten and other exposures in the month before their illness started. Interviews were conducted with the ill person from California and family members for both ill people. It was reported that both ill people drank raw milk before they got sick. The family of the deceased person in Florida reported purchasing raw milk from Miller’s Organic Farm.”
What isn’t clear from the CDC account is whether the individuals sickened might have been affected by chocolate raw milk, or some entirely different food. Miller has no idea, because, as noted, he never received any feedback from the individuals or their families that they were even sick. It seems strange as well that only two individuals were affected if the milk was contaminated on several occasions, minimum (in 2014 and again in 2015).
Adding flavoring is a processing step that doesn’t occur with non-flavored raw milk. It was post-pasteurization processing, including the addition of flavorings, that contaminated milk with listeria in Massachusetts in 2007, resulting in three deaths.
Part of what makes this CDC linkage surprising is that there hasn’t been a documented case of illness from listeria in raw milk in at least a decade in the U.S. It’s unfortunate that the CDC jumps on this particular case, and ties it to raw milk, when there has been a steady stream of serious illnesses and deaths from listeria and other pathogens in pasteurized dairy products like cheese and ice cream…..illnesses and deaths the CDC never identifies as caused by pasteurized dairy (such as this one in 2010 that sickened 38 people).
As a result of the CDC/FDA obsession with raw milk, this weird and cloudy case also seems very likely to become one of those lightning rods for channeling angry claims and counterclaims. We haven’t had one of these for a good while, and I haven’t missed them. Because all they do is create more suspicion and distrust of the regulators.
Something stinks, and I don’t think it’s the chocolate milk!
Yes, I agree. Something stinks. It’s the CDC using raw milk as their scapegoat yet again. Over 10 years drinking raw milk and I’ve never gotten sick.
Me either, over about the same time period, and I am an elderly person.
It is beyond any normal persons imagination to draw conclusions like this based on “scientific evidence” as presented by authorities in this case.
I would call this case more anecdotal than thousands of raw milk testimonials by real life people always dismissed by the so called experts.
This time authorities have outdone themselves beyond our wildest dreams.
It does not matter if it will turn out as a bogus case, it will appear in the CDC statistics as facts.
By the way David, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation just announced it will only publish comments if the authors name has been identified and verified. Worthwhile thinking about it.
Michael, your point on comments is well taken. Unlike CBC, we have people commenting here who can get into trouble with regulators and other government enforcers if their identities are known. Still, I have begun challenging anonymous commenters who make personal accusations, to reveal their identity.
Life is inherently risky. This much, I hope we can all agree on. Different experiences we have and choices we make lead us to believe that we are more at risk for certain outcomes. The real question is who gets to choose those risks—you or a bureaucrat?
There is strong evidence that the governments–both United States and Canadian–are systematically destroying small farmers in collusion with various special interest groups. In some cases, the governments are actively driving farmers from the land in order to control nutrient, mineral and resource-rich lands.
Our choices matter. If we will easily be fooled by dramatic and intentionally alarming press releases, we will begin to abandon the farmers that have held their piece of earth together. They nurture their piece of earth despite the systematic oppression against them. If we betray the loyalty that allows these farmers to nourish the earth, we betray ourselves.
The risks of abandoning our small producers far outweigh the miniscule risk of illness from something produced on a small farm.
To pretend that there is greater risk in something because the media screams their lies is to negate that which will support our lives and restore our health.
Every day there are illnesses from industrial agriculture. This does not touch the vast number of chronic illnesses caused by insufficient nutrients or the damage done to our eco systems through unsustainable practices.
I envision farmers peacefully feeding their communities, so we and future generations may be nurtured by the gifts of the land, and in turn nurture the earth through our inherent connections. Small farmers, practicing holistic management, are the only way forward—and the least risky.
Thanks for looking at the big picture around this, Liz. The government interests you cite are driven in significant measure by business interests. When companies like Dean Foods and Monsanto and Kraft and the Canadian dairy cartel see small farms selling good food directly to eager consumers, these businesses see competitive threats. They are making big contributions to the government reps, and expect them to protect the business interests. So for the CDC and FDA “sleuths” digging and digging for “dirt” on the small sustainable farms, findings like the one I describe in this post, as tentative and full of holes as they are, are like notches on the holster. They mean job advancement and bigger budgets. They also mean the regulators don’t have to look more deeply at the illnesses from industrial agriculture and the price of nutritional deficiencies. Great for everyone….except real people trying to feed their families healthy food.
When it comes to Canada, I disagree. Given that there are both federal and provincial laws which ban the sale of raw milk, and given that there has been little or no serious lobbying effort until recently to change those laws by the Canadian raw milk community, only open defiance of the law, I can’t see how one can expect the government and health units not to enforce the law. They’re going to do this. The 1991 federal ban on sales came in response to an outbreak in Ontario. No-one in the raw milk community provided government with any other suggestions on how to prevent this from happening again. But Ontario commercial dairy farmers, organized and lobbying, recommended a ban on raw milk sales — the only proposal the Federal government heard. Hearing no other solutions from anyone, they enacted it.
Plus considering that there is ample record of disease from improperly handled raw milk, in many nations, not just Canada, of course the public health agencies are going to have something to say about it, particularly if a complaint has been filed – and almost all of them operate solely on a complaint-driven basis – they don’t drive around looking for cows in fields.
If the raw milk community in Canada wants different laws, it’s going to have to organize and start demanding them. However, it had better figure out what specific laws it wants and does not want, and tell government what these are down to the semi-colon, or else either NOTHING is going to be done or it will be done very badly.
That was over 25 years ago. If there was a formal request made for input I don’t recall hearing about it and I was on a local OMMB milk committee at the time.
There wouldn’t have been a formal request. These things are usually done via back channels, i.e. at the routine formal or informal meetings between CFIA types and marketing board HQ spokespeople.
Exceptionally well said Liz.
Raw milk politics aside, my condolences to the families involved. Wherever the listeria came from, there was trauma where there shouldn’t have been. I am sorry to hear about the death in the community.
What exactly tested positive from that raw milk conference – plain milk or chocolate milk? If it was solely the chocolate milk, then did the farmer source industrially-produced chocolate syrup to add into the milk to make chocolate milk? Did the listeria come from this syrup? Has anyone checked the factory which produced this syrup? Did other dairy processors which sourced this syrup also have listeria counts, and do the genetics match? Did other people become sick from drinking pasteurized chocolate milk which used the same ingredient?
We also need more information about the listeria DNA database they used. Are they using the Broad Institute’s database? (see http://olive.broadinstitute.org/projects/Listeria%2520monocytogenes%2520Database). It’s necessary to know what the statistics are, the probability that this is linked solely to the farm.
All we know is what the CDC says in its statement. As you suggest, there are more holes here than in a slice of good raw milk swiss cheese.
Can we ask the CDC to provide more information and access to their data?
You will not get anything conclusive. It is hardly worth figuring out if it was the chocolate or the milk it is too far fetched to get anything to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt
For perspective on the problem of Listeriosis and milk and pasteurization see this recent journal article:
Responding to Bioterror Concerns by Increasing Milk Pasteurization Temperature Would Increase Estimated Annual Deaths from Listeriosis
Journal of Food Protection, Vol 77, No. 5, 2014, Pages 696-705.
“Conservative estimates of the effect of pasteurizing all fluid milk at 82 C rather than 72 C are that annual listeriosis deaths from consumption of this milk would increase from 18 to 670, a 38-fold increase”
(page 703) “These changes to the potential for outgrowth have been calculated to increase the risk of death from listeriosis due to consumption of pasteurized fluid milk by approximately 40-fold. Such an increase would have an appreciable public health impact if all milk in the United States were processed according to the increased pasteurization temperature based on the fact that milk is estimated to be responsible for approximately 18 listeriosis deaths per year in the United States.”
Here is what stinks. If you all remember, I warned the Millers well in advance of them being shut down in their selling of raw dairy products at the WAP Anaheim Convention last year. Instead of shutting down, they accelerated their selling and got caught by the local health department. That is exactly why the Cdc received the listeria hot “raw chocolate milk”.
Was this ignorance or arrogance ? Remember also that just a couple of days ago I shared about RAWMI getting calls about Amish having serious listeria found in their raw milk.
Listeria is a sign of unclean equipment and bio films.
Is this an Amish problem ? The church refused to allow use of chemicals to clean equipment.
This one is for Amanda Rose and her “aversion to outsourcing”. The millers use milk from multiple different Amish dairies when they sell over the USA.
How do you feel about this? Yes …. I am stirring the pot. It needs to be stirred. There is no hiding from PFGE patterns and epidemiology.
All those people all over the USA that order every week from Millers Organics should stop giving carteblanche blind approval to the Millers and open up their minds. No testing, no food safety programs, …. Raw milk is not to be taken lightly. Clean equipment and hot water with effective chilling is serious business. Is this the negative Mark on raw milk….now we have a death in the last 40 years. That’s really sad. Raw chocolate milk is not a legal standard of identity anywhere in the USA. There is a reason for this. God knows the quality of chocolate and it’s sources… It could be the origin of the trouble. Regardless, the chavalier attitude and disregard for serious safety and listeria being identified on Amish farms is important. If Millers was cautious many things would have been done differently. Including not selling products at a WAP convention inside of a hotel in the most raw milk regulated state in the USA. At WAP there seemed to be excitement created by breaking the quarantine tape. An excitement created by doing something edgy and illegal. I saw the WAP members and their lust for doing something illegal. They all knew it. One told me… Want some contraband ? Want some liberated products. What is it that drives this edgy nutritional thought ? This was not a protest of a rights violation…. This was not a statement of consumer demand. This was something different. If it was a protest where was the press conference and the posters. None of that happened. Now look at what we have. Another black eye against dirty raw milk… One with a Cdc death recorded behind it.
Throw your tomatoes. Think bad things of me. But remember this, raw milk will only be accepted if produced by people that take it seriously.
Mark, I think the Weston A. Price Foundation conference situation with respect to Amos Miller was handled badly all around, as I said in the post I did last November when the conference was going on. The WAPF should have been enforcing its policies on raw milk availability the way it had at previous conferences. Miller should have been more respectful of the conference environment. And you should have refrained from crying about them so loudly so as to instigate an inspection by local regulators. The whole situation was a very bad scene, and opened an opportunity for the FDA and CDC to advance their anti-raw-milk agenda.
Here you go. Thanks Joseph
Sounds like fake trumped up charges to me. My first thought was – listeria SIMILAR, (not the same????) found in chocolate – and a year later they know that these people ate this chocolate, and this chocolate and nothing else could have caused a SIMILAR listeria to sicken them???
That isn’t evidence – it’s a witch hunt. It is inaccurate and BAD SCIENCE.
Then we don’t even have a link btwn a private group of raw milk consumers and that chocolate???
Wow – don’t let theses clowns help your kids with their science project!!!!!!
Yes. You heard it from me first. I blame the FDA for this raw milk death. It lays at their feet. The FDA shut OPDC down and threatened me with jail and huge fines for selling pet raw dairy products across America. That was ten years ago. But…. When the Amish sell raw milk by the truck load all over the USA, the FDA turns their head and ignores them. A tacet endorsement of the practice.
I blame the FDA for their allowing raw milk flowing over state lines….with out standards or testing. This has been literally encouraged by the FDA because the FDA failed to address the issue and instead encouraged it by intentionally ignoring it.
Mark, your comments here about the CDC report on listeria cases are totally irresponsible, inaccurate, malicious, and vindictive, toward Amos Miller and, yes, even toward the FDA. You are behaving no differently from Dean Foods and the various dairy associations, spreading lies about a producer’s raw milk. Why? Because you hate the competition Amos Miller and other small producers, including Amish and non-Amish producers, represent to you. It’s not the first time you have come down on smaller producers who distribute their milk privately, and it is disgusting and totally hypocritical. You make clear in these situations that your first priority in the battle over raw milk is OPDC sales and profits.
Amos Miller distributes his milk and other farm products privately, only to members who have signed a detailed “Membership Contract” in his “Private Membership Association”, and paid a membership fee. I am a member of a group in the Boston area, and here is some of what my contract states:
I understand that the fellow members of the Association that provide products and services, do so in the capacity of a fellow member and not in the capacity as a licensed wholesaler, retailer or provider. I further understand that within the association no wholesaler/retailer-customer relationship exists but only a contract member-member Association relationship. In addition, I have freely chosen to change my legal status as a public consumer/customer to a private member of the Association. I further understand that it is entirely my own responsibility to consider the recommendations and products offered to me by my fellow members and to educate myself as to the efficacy, risks, and desirability of same and the acceptance of the offered or recommended products and is my own carefully considered decision. Any request by me to a fellow member to assist me or provide me with the aforementioned recommendations or products is my own free decision in an exercise of my rights and made by me for the benefit, and I agree to hold the Trustee(s), staff and other worker members and the Association harmless from any unintentional liability for the results of such recommendations and products, except for harm that results from instances of a clear and present danger of substantive evil as determined by the Association, as stated and defined by the United States Supreme Court.”
Mark, you whine like a little child, that the FDA goes after you but, “turns their head and ignores” the Amish. The FDA has inspected Miller’s farm, a few years ago. The FDA has been informed that the Miller farm distributes milk only as a private membership association. You got into trouble with the FDA about selling raw milk as pet food across state lines because you were selling your milk to the general public, using your web site and other vehicles to advertise and promote OPDC dairy products. Miller and other Amish don’t advertise or sell via the Internet, or otherwise promote their products to the general public. I have to assume the FDA is being respectful of the private membership arrangement at Miller farm and at other small farms that sell to private groups.
The principle of private raw milk sales is being upheld on a regular basis around the U.S. The trial of Vernon Hershberger in Wisconsin in 2013 was about whether he could distribute his milk to members of his private food club, which is set up much the same as Miller’s group. The state argued that his food club was no different from Costco or Sam’s Club, and should be subject to the state’s retail and dairy laws, prohibiting any sales of raw milk. A jury rejected those arguments, and not only acquitted him of violating the state’s dairy and retail laws, but several members of the jury joined his food club after the trial. This trial was a huge event, and Hershberger’s defense was underwritten in significant measure by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, which actively endorses private food distribution arrangements.
The new raw milk law in West Virginia is essentially state endorsement of private sales of raw milk. Residents need to belong to a herdshare to access raw milk. It’s the same in Ohio, Michigan, Colorado, and a number of other states that have in recent years endorsed private availability of raw milk. It wasn’t long ago that nearly half the states prohibited raw milk distribution of any kind. I believe we are now down to seven states prohibiting raw milk, and the progress in broadening raw milk availability is mostly via the private membership vehicle.
Private groups in California have obtained milk from the Amish in the past, largely because members thought the quality of the milk, butter, and kefir was superior to that of OPDC’s. That rankles you no end, but it is their right. Ostensibly, you have been fighting for that right, but always, when push comes to shove, you throw that right out the window and throw people like Amos Miller under the bus, all in the interests of OPDC profits. I’m sorry to rebut your arguments as I have, but your malicious accusations leave me no choice.
“The new raw milk law in West Virginia is essentially state endorsement of private sales of raw milk. Residents need to belong to a herdshare to access raw milk.”
And this confusion of herdsharing with buying clubs is why it will be so difficult to legalized herdsharing in Canada. If a herdshare is still selling raw milk to its “members,” then it is not a herdshare. If you own the animal, then you already own the milk and there is no reason you should be buying it. If you’re buying milk, then you obviously do not own the animal.
Herdsharing can be a valid way to access raw milk where sales are banned, but they can’t be a euphemism for “sales” or they are being disingenuous and dishonest, trying to fool the authorities. A “scam” as a government regulator recently called this type.
The term “private buyers club” should be applied when milk sales are still taking place. That is at least being honest.
A person can own a cow and pay for someone to look after it. If they pay for services rendered when they pick up the milk, so what, it is not a euphemism for sales, it is their cow and their milk.
When I gas up my truck, I could consider the cost to be paying for services rendered as well. But it certainly feels like I’m buying gas. Particularly if I don’t own the gas station or am not able to buy and sell that gas station along with my fellow gas station owners, hire/fire the attendants and clerks, etc.
Ken, you and I are both on the same page. We both support raw milk. But, having a “price per litre” will be used against farms in court to convict a farm of selling. For example, in the court application which is now on The Bovine for download. York is arguing:
“(jj) Even after the purchase of [shares], shareholders are still required to pay $3 to $5.50 per litre for the unpasteurized milk that they purchase from ARC.”
I’m suggesting that, at least in Canada, there be a distinction made between herdshares and buying clubs, and that the former stop acting like the latter.
What is the solution? As has been suggested elsewhere, the solution may be to entirely divorce monies paid from volume of product received. People buy fractional ownership of the herd. Track total production figures for the herd. Figure out the total cost agistment for the whole herd and then divide by the number of shares. Own 1/10th the herd, you receive 1/10th the total products and pay 1/10th the total cost (of labour, boarding, feed, etc.). Livestock owners pay this monthly agistment fee per share in advance, regardless of product produced or received – after all, animals still have to eat whether they’re dried-off, just freshened, or whatever. And – for Canada – look at what Justice Tetley said was necessary for herdshares, i.e. members being involved in management decisions regarding their animals (regular membership meetings help the decision-making process).
Using chemical sanitizers to control microbes such as Listeria will only make matters worse. These toxic, corrosive chemicals do little more then undermine human immunity, increase susceptibility to illness and denature the nutritive value of whole food. Any milk producer using such chemicals to sanitize his or her milking equipment, even though organic standards permit their use, should think long and hard before labeling their products organic.
The article Mary referenced suggested that the Listeria bacterium from the raw chocolate milk was a “likely source” and “closely related” to that found in two people in two state namely California and one from Florida. Now, although you, Mary, and Amanda may very well interpret this ambiguous terminology and far-fetched assessment as conclusive proof, that doesn’t mean the rest of us, have to buy into it.
Studies suggest that up to 10% of humans are asymptomatic carriers of Listeria monocytogenes in their gastrointestinal tracts. http://www.biosb.com/wp-content/uploads/DD-0128-01-Listeria-Monocytogenes-Real-Time-PCR-Kit.pdf
As of 2014 there were 318.9 million people in the United States of America, which means 31.89 million people or more are potentially walking around with the Listeria bacterium in their guts. Considering these numbers and the ubiquitous nature of the Listeria microbe in the environment, what difference are a minute number L. microbes in food going to make? Surely, there are other more important triggering factors at play here that the tptb are neglecting to address because of their narrow focus on a microbe?
Brad, listeria monocytogenes was the same bacteria found. What was similar was the genetic PFGE patterns. Let me say this, the Cdc and regulators do not make this stuff up. I have worked closely with my state epidemiologists. They have very strict standards and protocols to follow to compare PFGE patterns. They do not put that kind of information into official reports unless they can defend it. That report is available and you can see the PFGE patterns yourself. They also double checked using other pattern technologies. When they report this stuff they have to be able to defend it in court. That’s the way America works nowadays.
The days of denial are gone. No hiding anymore. They know how to connect dots very effectively. You will notice that the families of the dead and sick confirm consumption of millers milk at the time of their illnesses and death. The patient histories Match the PFGE.
Liz. When we live under a microscope in the raw milk community, you should better not give those in power the third finger too much. It tends to come back to haunt you. As the old saying says….pissing on supermans cape is not a very good idea, until you are bigger, quicker, richer, stronger faster and better than superman. We are not there yet. Until then, we must be clean and build markets with passionate healthy people that dollar vote the change.
We must live and thrive in an unfair reality. That is number 1. How we do this is the trick? It takes strategy and smarts.
I didn’t get the impression Liz gave anyone the finger. She was simply expressing her opinion about how the American and Canadian governments are making life very difficult for some sustainable farms, in the interests of pushing them out of farming. A rational statement of opinion, not accusatory of any single individual.
I very much appreciate the opportunity to post my perspective of the Millers Organic Anaheim story.
A picture of a “smoking gun” and a link to the “Cdc report that points directly to raw milk” being illegally sold at a WAP conference certainly brings on the interesting headlines. It was not my idea to spotlight The Millers farm and the fact that raw milk they were selling to everyone with cash…. Was tested and found to have listeria M. By the CDC. This was your choice in stories. Not mine.
When WAP staff was asked to bring raw milk to the WAP kids day care….it was Millers raw milk from the quarantined area with a yellow tape on it that was brought to feed the kids. My OPDC staff then had to reject that milk and go get our own OPDC raw milk to feed the kids.
Am I pissed…. ? You bet I am. Who is irresponsible? It sure as hell was not me. “Feeding kids with illegal untested state quarantined listeria milk??? ”
Rethink your commentary.
I warned the Millers… Paul Frank warned the Millers… The hotel management warned the Millers ( they were really pissed )
In the long line of customers buying Millers products, no one was filling out membership docs or showing proof of membership. The only thing changing hands was cash and lots of it.
The age of innocence is gone. The age of accountability & responsible raw milk is upon us all. It is quite possible that OPDC staff saved kids lives and or prevented illness that day.
Mark, I agree with you, and said as much in another comment, that Amos Miller’s people at the WAPF conference behaved badly. For the record, his people came the very next week to the Paleo-Primal-Price Foundation conference in Massachusetts, and completely obeyed orders to not have any raw dairy products for anyone. Go figure.
But aside from that, your comments are so outrageous, I don’t know where to begin. But maybe with the CDC report, which I only decided to report on because mainstream media were already reporting it as if its allegations were facts. Some media controlled by various product liability lawyers were reporting it as further evidence raw milk in general is dangerous and killing people. My post is nearly entirely about what I called the “weird and cloudy” CDC allegations that two elderly individuals became ill with listeriosis back in 2014, with one dying, because they consumed raw milk from Miller’s farm. The 2015 WAPF conference is a sidelight, the place where a sample of milk was taken and listeria discovered that is similar genetically to the listeria found in the ill individuals back in 2014. No one, not even the CDC, is alleging any illnesses at the WAPF conference, or anywhere else, involving Miller. The smoking gun photo is meant only as a symbol of the CDC contention that it has the goods.
But let’s cut to the chase. How do you think you would react if the CDC published a report on the internet saying it discovered that Organic Pastures raw milk purchased from a farmers market in 2015 was contaminated with listeria similar to that found in two people in California who became sick from listeria in 2014, and who were believed to have consumed OPDC milk? Would it be the same as what you are saying here about Amos Miller? That you accept the CDC report in its entirety, that you were the cause of the two illnesses, and one death, and damn, you should have done a better job of testing and sanitation? I know you wouldn’t, because you have never accepted responsibility for the four kids who got very sick back in 2006 from E.coli O157:H7, and the evidence against OPDC then was very much stronger than the evidence against Miller now. You’ve hedged about other illnesses associated with OPDC in the intervening years, saying there hasn’t been sufficient proof. Even with the four illnesses associated with OPDC earlier this year, you’ve minimized the seriousness of some of the illnesses versus what the state has claimed.
No, if the accusations being leveled at Miller now were being leveled at you, you would be dodging and weaving, lashing out at the CDC and FDA, accusing them of guilt by association, of a vendetta against raw milk, of having it in for you, of lying about the seriousness of the illnesses, about ignorant scientists, and on and on and on. People who live in glass houses should definitely avoid throwing stones.
The kicker is your concluding statement, “It is quite possible that OPDC staff saved kids lives and or prevented illness that day.” That’s what FDA and local public health agents say to each other after they’ve raided OPDC, or shut down one or another raw dairy. In your case, you had no knowledge that listeria might be present in any of the milk, because it hadn’t yet been tested. And Miller’s dairy hasn’t been associated with any illnesses that I am aware of, in many years of operation, which is more than can be said about OPDC.
As you well know, listeria is the least threatening pathogen to be found in raw milk, since it needs to be present in significant quantity to cause damage. That’s likely a big reason it hasn’t been a factor in causing illnesses over the last decade or longer. That you would rationalize your attacks on Amos Miller with pablum that you saved illnesses is truly amazing. That’s why I can’t think of any other reason for your attacks other than your concerns about the competitive threat posed by small dairies distributing privately.
I am not sure where you got the story that I cried about the Millers at Anaheim and that was the cause of the inspection. Quite to the contrary, I warned Millers well in advance of the local health department coming to inspect. I was told to expect an inspection….that’s when I told Millers to shut down and stop selling because inspectors were coming. After being told about the pending health department inspection and the requirement for proof of insurance and other state permits for raw milk….Millers accelerated their selling. I had nothing to do with the Millers getting into trouble and having all of their products placed under embargo and quarantine. This was an official act of the health department.
You got your story backwards. I gave the Millers over an hour warning prior to the arrival of the health department!!
I do agree, that I and “all of us in the raw milk movement live in glass houses”. I am not interested in throwing stones at other houses or having stones thrown at mine. I also agree, that it would appear that my comments appear to be market protective. But, I will protect California producers.
I own all illnesses that have been associated with my products…,they are mine and I must live with them. I also work tirelessly to reduce the incidence of illness to a rare remote slight negligible possibility.
My glass house is legal, permitted, inspected, certified, tested, has a world class food safety program, is located in the most regulated location on the face of the earth and is subject to PulseNet PFGE data assessment.
The Millers come into CA, in defiance of federal, state, local, WAP and hotel policies. Sell raw milk to anyone that has money and with out a membership agreement. Then break the seals on a legal official quarantine and sell the milk anyway….and then attempt to provide it to children at the WAP baby sitting area. We now find out that the milk was positive for listeria!!!
This is agredious. This is disrespectful to WAP, the hotel, county law, state law and federal law. It is also unfair. Why is it unfair? OPDC pays the state of CA milk pool $30,000 dollars each month for the right to sell fluid milk, OPDC pays more than $90,000 per year for insurance, OPDC pays for state and county inspections, OPDC is inspected by state, county, federal and NCIMS agencies….not to mention paying for organic inspections and fees. Opdc is 100% legitimate. This takes damn had work and costs money…lots of it.
Why is it wrong to object to untested, uninspected, not local, poor quality ( we know this because of complaints of very short shelf life, ( souring in three days ) illegal raw milk beng sold in CA from out of state?
May I suggest that what the Millers are doing and did at WAP was totally illegal and perhaps even criminal. They got caught and now they are facing all sorts of issues. Issues they brought on themselves by their own contempt.
There are five legal producers of raw milk in CA. There are also many very good high quality Cow Shares operating in CA. We do not want or need miss branded, misslabeled, untested, raw milk from 2500 miles away being brought into CA and dumped at cheap prices. I have not complained of Millers raw products for the last six years….but now I am. I am sick of it. Cheap, untested, short shelf life smuggled milk and other products ( totally unknown due to improper labels ) that are in violation of every health code written. Let there be no question, I do not think it is fair and it is now been found to be unsafe. There is not even any firm evidence of USDA organic certification for the Millers, even though they claim to be organic ( could be wrong in this, but the Millers could not provide evidence of organic certification when asked ).
I have never claimed to be perfect and I am not , but we try our best under the most extreme regulatory pressures. In the most intense regulatory environment in America. To have someone come in and pay none of our regulatory costs, shoulder none of our burdens and sell cheaply and indiscriminately…is ethically wrong and unfair. One of the roles of CDFA is market enforcement to assure a level and ethical business environment. I hope that the Millers are kept out of CA permanently. If OPDC attempted to sell one ounce of raw milk over a state line…I would land in jail. Is that fair!!??
Fair play is important. I know that all the other CA based raw milk producers feel exactly the same way I do, but they will not speak up. I speak for all of us.
All of these things are hard to for some to read and digest. But they are the truth and based in reality.
If we want to protest the injustice of the FDA and laws against raw milk…then lets protest the stupid laws and lets change them!! I am the first to help out and show up! But a protest looks quite different than sales at a WAP convention violating every tenet of goodwill and placing the hotel and WAP at great risk.
Mark, Your attempt to make safe raw milk readily available to the public in California is admirable. Try not to place yourself to high on a pedestal and get overly righteous about it. As far as the Miller’s milk testing “positive for listeria is concerned, have you tested your gut bacteria lately? In fact if you the CDOA, the FDA and the CDC are really serious about getting a handle on listeria perhaps you should test every man, woman and child in your state in order to determine whose guts may be contaminated with the bacterium. What’s good for raw milk should be good for the California people’s gut systems as well! n’est–ce pas?
Trying to placate the germ focused crowd and tptb with your RAWMI initiative is an exercise in futility for at least three reasons.
(1) Microbes will not be and are beyond the meticulous level of control/testing that RAWMI demands.
(2) The only option for narrow-minded bureaucrats and germaphobe-obsessed consumers is the eradication of illness, (a ludicrous notion to say the least), and their obsession with absolute control and litigation.
(3) Food choice or any choice for that matter is not an option or at best a fading option in the minds of those who desire systematic control.
Wow. First, apparently it took me two days to hear about this post. Good for me. The weather is great in our area right now.
Second, I’d completely forgotten about the WAPF-Miller controversy. Scuttlebutt here at the time was that Mark called the inspectors in. It’s a very interesting situation because had someone else called them in and had inspectors then found listeria in the product, people here on this blog would have blamed the guy calling in the inspectors. Irony indeed.
Long in the “get a goat” camp
This thread is now getting a lot of attention and, as a result, I received a message with a question I could not answer. Maybe it’s a mis-type. Mark said upstream, “There are five legal producers of raw milk in CA. There are also many very good high quality Cow Shares operating in CA.”
Who are the five producers? I’m aware of two but I’m out of the loop in parts of California.
Consider this….Millers milk has not been associated with illnesses because they are not tested and regulated. Half of OPDCs recalls in the last 16 years have been not related to illness. They have been test based. If a bad bug is found by the regulators….mandatory recall of all products. No illness required! . If an operation is unregulated and untested, then of coarse they will not be on the radar screen or in the purview of PulseNet.
Being illegal has its real advantages until you get caught.
Not sure why you think my comments are so outlandish. Lets be clear….Miller sells raw milk by any means possible sometimes by membership and mostly by straight up sales. He sells cheap because there is so little invested in their safety or value. It is totally black market!! It is totally unknown whether all of the ingredients are organic….but yet he claims organic. It is unknown whether anything at his farm is what he claims because there are no inspections!! And no labels indicating ingredients!!!
I want the Millers group of Amish producers ( it is a whole group not just the Millers that mix their products ) to stay out of California and any other state that already has consumer raw milk access from local producers. I am 100% USDA organic and raw and I will protect that hard earned claim and I will also do all that I can to protect my state of CA and its consumers.
I’m not sure where you get your information, such as that Miller sells “mostly by straight up sales.” I have spent time at his farm, as have other members I know, and what I have seen is the exact opposite. I am coming to realize that, to you, private sales of any type are “black market.”
There is one positive in our discussion here, though: It is testimony to the growing acceptance of raw milk in the U.S., by both consumers and regulators, that we are having the discussion we are having. There are clearly significant sales going on via both the public and private outlets, and more states are becoming receptive to the notion of raw milk, increasingly on a private basis.
Our discussion is one that takes place regarding dynamic and growing markets of all kinds. It’s similar to one that is bubbling up in my Massachusetts town. Food trucks have begun appearing at various spots over the last few years. The established restaurants in town have organized to have them banned, because the restaurants fear the food trucks will cut into the business of the established outlets. The restaurant owners say the food truck operators don’t abide by safety regulations, and don’t have to pay rent. They undercut the restaurants on price. They are “black market.” Sound familiar? The food truck operators say their trucks simply enlarge the prepared food market for all. They give people a choice, and often the food truck food is superior to the restaurant food. So far, the established restaurants are winning, as they’ve convinced the town fathers to make the regulations for the food trucks so expensive and difficult, that the food trucks can’t qualify to sell in the town. For me as a resident, it’s a big loss in choice.
It’s an ongoing dance in industries everywhere. The established producers try to reduce competition by getting tougher and tougher regulations in place. They push the regulators to go after the upstarts who have the gall to try to enter “their” market.
Kind of sad to see the phenomenon happening in the raw milk market, where, for a good while, it was all for one and one for all.
As an added feature idea for this blog, it would be great if we could respond with memes.
Mark, It appears you share this same “misperception” of regulation as described below by lawyer Harry Ditzler.
You’ve chosen to chastise the Millers for failing to live up to your standards and those of the alphabet agencies that you claim are on our side. I have areal problem with this because I do not trust those agencies. You hold your organic certification (OC) up high, as if it is the be all and end all of truth and the epitome of integrity. I have a real problem with that also, because I understand the process quite well and I know it to be otherwise, i.e. unreliable and full of holes.
Here’s where the problem truly lies, not with the microbes that are trying to keep ahead of and clean up these messes!
“With the Famous Letter, Bilott crossed a line. Though nominally representing the Tennants — their settlement had yet to be concluded — Bilott spoke for the public, claiming extensive fraud and wrongdoing. He had become a threat not merely to DuPont but also to, in the words of one internal memo, ‘‘the entire fluoropolymers industry’’ — an industry responsible for the high-performance plastics used in many modern devices, including kitchen products, computer cables, implantable medical devices and bearings and seals used in cars and airplanes. PFOA was only one of more than 60,000 synthetic chemicals that companies produced and released into the world without regulatory oversight.”
Harry Deitzler, a plaintiff’s lawyer in West Virginia who works with Bilott states, ‘‘Before that letter, corporations could rely upon the public misperception that if a chemical was dangerous, it was regulated.’’
Thank you so very much for citing the Rob Bilott article.
Mr. J. Ingvar Odegaard
I am a new consumer to raw milk, except for one time several years ago when I drank it in California out of a container from Organic Farms, Fields or Ranch? I did not remember the exact name as it was entirely unremarkable and I could not tell the difference between “your” milk and the milk we had been drinking our whole lives. Until now, now that I have been reading your posts.. Could that have been “Organic Pastures?” I do remember getting ill shortly after but I can not say for sure whether it was because of you.
To the point. One of the things I dislike more than almost anything in life is a bully. And you sir, are a bonafide bully by all accounts. You forcefully reduce our rights to choose the foods we want to feed ourselves and our families for your personal gain.
Sir, you purport to be a champion and protector for the raw milk consumer, that would now include me. Through your self-promoting club, RAWMI, you laud yourself as a bastion of support for the farmers. You sir, have an incredible ego that barely floats your self-importance as an expert on raw milk safety which begs me to ask of you (Question 1), “which raw dairy milk farmer has had the most outbreaks since you have been a raw milk producer?”
You actively, openly and aggressively advocate for the criminalization of unassuming farmers. You, by your own words, advocate for the destruction of an unassuming farm because the farmers do not adhere to your standards, standards that it appears you yourself have failed miserably at. Dear sir, I ask this of you (Question 2), “what kind of support can your actions show?” Too me it shows that you are a jealous, vindictive and petty person. Most bullies are. Please explain to me differently.
Sir, your position of imploring the FDA to target a specific farmer because he or she does not agree with your worldview, is the worst kind of bullying you could inflict on the raw milk farmers and the raw milk consumers you pretend to “protect.” At best, once again, you clearly prove through your actions and words that you are a bully. And proof again, you say you support raw milk and that you want people to choose, but clearly through your actions and words that is not true. You want people to have the right to choose as long as it is you. You sir, are a bully.
Like a thug-snitch, you vilify and criminalize those who share the same general desire but do not match your worldview.
(Question 3) “Has it occurred to you that California people get milk from out of state because they do not trust your dairy?” Even with being extremely new to the real food movement, I have heard from more than I can count that they will not touch your milk, and I have read more articles and blogs than I can stomach about the illnesses you have created and your gloating in the attention you garner by making people sick. In the health food arena, bad press is NOT good press. It is nothing to brag about when you sicken children and elders with your products. (Question 4) “Is it true that the only way you can have a market for your bacteria laden raw milk from “pastured” cows is that you use your weight and strength to keep other farmers from offering a good, clean and safe product?”
Mr. Mark McAfee, these simple questions may seem unimportant, and by reading the plethora of other unanswered questions directed at you saturating the internet, you probably will make no attempt outside of psycho-babble deflections to respond to these. So lets start with a clean slate using the following easy straight forward questions that I think all raw milk producers, consumers and want-to-be regulators (like you) would like to know…
1. Is it in-fact true that you played a role (any role) in attracting attention to Miller’s Organic Farm during the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) in Anaheim, CA last November?
2. Is there any raw milk producer that has sickened more people or has had more problems with tainted raw milk than you since you became a raw milk producer?
3. By what qualified sources are you using for your seemingly malicious and slanderous allegations towards Mr. Miller and the Amish people?
4. Under what authority or on what legal grounds do you accuse Mr. Miller of killing another human being?
5. You claim that Mr. Miller caused, “Another black eye against dirty raw milk… One with a Cdc death recorded behind it.” Where are those records and what documents are you privy to that can back this financially harmful and reputation damaging claim?
6. Between you and Mr. Miller, which one of you has irrefutable proof that one of you has caused horrific illness to people including several children?
7. Is it true that you consider anyone that is not “bigger, quicker, richer, stronger faster and better than” you to be “pissing” on your cape?
8. You boldly claim that, “I (you) warned the Millers… Paul Frank warned the Millers… The hotel management warned the Millers.” Which one of you has phone records showing that your outlandish claim is true? All three of you called Amos Miller and warned him? Is that TRUE?
9. You bitterly claim that there was a “long line of customers buying Miller’s products” at the WAPF convention in California. I ask you this, is the reason you are trying to destroy soft-spoken farmers because your booth did not have “long lines of customers” excitedly wanting to purchase a delicious nutrient dense product such as Millers? Is your jealousy and greed the true motivation for pretending to be a “protector” of raw milk consumers and farmers, and furthermore is your greed the inspiration for your desire to become a regulator of raw milk health standards?
10. Just a few short months after sickening several children with E.coli through your dairy products, do you actually believe your ironic claim that at the above mentioned Anaheim WAPF convention your, “OPDC staff saved kids lives and or prevented illness that day?” Really, do you REALLY believe yourself??!!
11. You claim that, “Being illegal has its real advantages until you get caught.” I ask you this sir, have you ever done anything illegal in the raw dairy industry that you have or have not been caught at?
12. Have you reached out to Mr. Miller about the validity of these egregious claims you have publicly made against him and the Amish community?
In closing Mark, can I call you Mark, Mark? In closing, only bullies and agent-provocateurs can in your own words, “thrive in an unfair reality.” You go on to braggadociously exclaim, “How we do this is the trick? It takes strategy and smarts.”
Your superman “strategy and smarts” are very clear Mark, you “want the Millers group of Amish producers… …to stay out of California and any other state that already has consumer raw milk access from local producers.” And, as you go on to threaten in your very bullying way, “I (you) am 100% USDA organic and raw and I will protect that hard earned claim and I will also do all that I can to protect my state of CA and its consumers.”
13. In your haughty self-appointed position as leader and protector of the raw milk universe, can you protect California and your raw milk customers (children especially) from yourself Mark?
as you admit, Zack Hunter, you’re new here …. and it shows. Predicated in your so-obvious ignorance of the facts… your blustering accusations against Mark McAffee are comical. Longtime participants on this forum understand the bigger picture, thus = whence your fiery darts originate. Educate you-self… start with the FACT that today, in America, 3 million people will drink raw milk and be better off for it ; the efforts of Mark McAfee had much to do with that. In California, 10,000 customers have considered the evidence for and against Organic Pastures, over the last decade, and continue to vote with their dollars. Perhaps you can put your gripes in context … start by telling us when’s the last time you set foot in a milking parlor?
Zack, your attacks are very off-base. But, in the interests of brevity, I’m only addressing two of them:
1) RAWMI is not a “club.” Any farmer can get RAWMI training, implement the food safety procedures that RAWMI teaches, and get RAWMI-listed if they are dedicated to achieving low-risk milk.
Has Miller or any of the other farms that Miller distributes for asked for training? Has your own farmer? Training is free. Let’s see Mr. Miller’s regular milk sample test results. Come on, post them here.
Is sounds like you think your farmer does a better job than RAWMI-trained farmers, but does your farmer have a food safety plan such as a RAMP and SSOP? Do you know your own farmer’s monthly coliform and SPC test results? Have you asked? Does he/she post them online, email them out, or have them ready for customers to read wherever they pick up their milk? Those of RAWMI-listed farmers are posted online = complete public disclosure. Let’s see your own farmers test results and food safety plans.
2) You cannot compare the number of illnesses linked to OPDC with other farmers, farm against farm, without taking into account the volume (gallons) of product produced by each. And per the same volume of product produced by each, OPDC milk likely has one of the best safety records in the nation, for any food producer of any sort, per serving.
Not only that Gordon, Mr. Hunter really gives himself away in his first paragraph when he smugly testifies that there wasn’t ANY DIFFERENCE in TASTE between raw milk and “boiled to death” CAFO fluid milk!!!! REALLY! Maybe Mr. Hunter’s tongue was severely burned at some point in his life. Or maybe his “central nervous system” is utterly compromised and the neurons aren’t making “normal” connections anymore. Sorry, Mr. Hunter, but being a long term reader here of David’s blog…you Sir, are waaayyy out of line. You are not going to be taken seriously confronting Mark in that manner with NO HISTORY or ACCOUNTABILITY of just who you are or even pretend to be. David can shake Mark down, and we readers will “listen,” but NOT YOU or any Shill like you. Even the bloggers who hate Mark, but have been blogging here a long time (we know who they are) are taken far more seriously simply because their identities are known as well as their sentiments. So,take a very deep breath, drink some nutrient dense raw milk kefir (it’s more of a probiotic which you seem to need more than the sweet milk),and sit quietly until you know what you are talking about.JMHO.
I can assure you Ms. Pellicano, my taste buds are in-tact. I found little difference other than normal brand unique and seasonal subtleties your coveted liquid. You questioning my choice and right to personal opinion in food quality and taste is udderly compromised.
Interesting that asking questions directly related to your leaders own accusations and attacks is out of line? A shakedown and even offensive to the bloggers that “hate” him? It is my experience that people only “shakedown” an easy mark or a con artist.
Thank you for letting me know that I am too unique to be considered for acceptance into your elitist group 😉
nope, you have too high an opinion your little-ol’-self Mister Zack. You ain’t all that special = just another ill-informed dilletante, trolling-by, unloading a peculiar style of cheap shot … obviously motivated by covetousness at the success of Organic Pastures Dairy. Big Question being : “who put you up to it?” …
… let’s see if you can muster the testicular wherewithal it’d take to meet Mark McAffee in person. Arrange to cross paths with him as he criss-crosses the country, advocating for REAL MILK. He’ll give you the facts, alright. I bet he’ll treat you a lot more civilly than you have him. Then let’s see if you’re big enough to post to this forum an apology for your preposterous accusations?
Dr. Watson I presume?
It is my intention to deal with the facts of raw milk and the accusations made specifically within this blog’s thread. It appears that you have mis-diagnosed me as a real-food newborn. Simply put, I am a recently liberated raw milk food consumer (about one year now) and I, like everyone else with a vested interest, want to know the facts. More importantly, have the facts presented to me as truth. I have, as do you and everyone else born on this big blue marble, the right to choose my life sustaining nutrients and freedom of choice to what I feed my family.
To answer your question, ironically, I was and still am on a dairy farm when you commented and as I send this reply.
Thank you for your input 😉
Thank you for your interest. My questions asked of Mr. McAfee are to be answered by him. It is not my intention to invest time in being recruited by a loyalist into RAWMI (or any other aspiring food regulator(s). I have no desire to get side-tracked from my original reason for commenting. I applaud your effort though.
In short, as I stated, I am a “consumer.” I do not sell, recruit or make claims other than that of my undeniable right to choose and educate myself as to the foods I introduce to my body.
These questions are clearly addressed to Mark. I could answer a few myself with publicly available data but that misses the point of Zack Hunter posting them.
Thank you Amanda 🙂
Mr. Hunter, If we do not LIVE as we THINK, We soon begin to THINK as we LIVE! We suit our Philosophies to our actions! You’re not alone in this, our entire culture construes the TRUTH to our own conveniences. Unfortunately, Mother Nature doesn’t acquiesce to man’s view of biological/agricultural organic principles which Mother Nature put into place before we were even evolutionary slime crawling out onto the land.(as some folks think is the Truth)
You call me an elitist…how droll. You and I are on the same dinner plate in terms of food freedom, but that is only political…it has nothing to do with actually producing food that doesn’t come out of industrial practices…processes that leave our land, in the long run, DE-natured. But we do not share the same path to finding the Truth…no big deal…just different perspectives. That you were on a dairy farm, maybe picking up your share…good for you. Now volunteer to do the milking chores…for even a week…then blog again and tell us how THAT went for you, and your farmer!
David G. did stir the pot here with Mark, that’s for sure…as he has the credentials, history and commitment to this whole movement of nutrient dense food, of which raw milk is such a seminal part, but you just wanted to ride on the coat-tails of his admonishments and
that was indeed pathetic, as well as obvious. A shake-down or a dressing-down is taking someone to task…it is NOT taking someone DOWN, which is how I took your book-length tirade against Mark. Geeze, you can’t be much past 30 years old, and if you are…shame on you. And Amanda, don’t bother…I don’t care.
Weather sure is nice out in California.
How are the goats?
Thank you….Marietta and Gordon.
RAWMI is its own community and stands on its own.
The story of what happened at Anaheim was well chronicled by David last year. All of the questions and answers were posted very clearly. I had nothing to do with exposing Millers to an official inspection. I warned those two young Amish boys standing behind the Millers table that inspectors were coming. They did not know about the inspection….and continued to sell their misbranded, untested, unlabeled and illegal products. I then had WAP, the hotel and even Paul Frank explain to them the ramifications of continued sales. The sales accelerated.
Zack, I am a teacher, peace maker and bridge builder. I invite you to come visit me and take a tour of OPDC. I do not bite…and I listen very well. If that is not possible, please call me 559-970-5581 and I would love to listen to you and find out more about where you got this information. I think that there is definitely a failure of communications and a void of hard data.
To answer just a couple of your questions….yes, there have been other retail approved brands of raw milk with many more illnesses than OPDC ( in recent years ). Most of them are associated with serious campylobacter ( both here in CA and in other states…and both have been sued by many consumers ). That does not matter one little bit. What matters most is what the producers have done to over come their challenges and prevent them from happening again. I am proud to say that these producers have overcome the challenge and they are thriving.
Let me ask you a couple of questions: are you a raw milk producer yourself and if you are what state do you live and produce in?
With all of your energy and passion, I would love to have you on my side. Call me and lets talk. We probably have much in common.
By the way, it was the Millers that placed their illegal products into the California stream of commerce and got caught and also got caught with Listeria at the same time. I had nothing to do with that. Nothing!! Give me a call.
Meanwhile, according to CDC data, Listeria caused 44 illnesses, 42 hospitalizations, and 8 deaths in 2014. The culprits? Caramel apples, pasteurized cheese in a restaurant, a milkshake served in a hospital, and sprouts in a restaurant. We certainly never heard any brou-ha-ha about any of these foods, or any warnings not to consume caramel apples (7 deaths!).