Earlier this year, I wrote about ominous noises coming from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about raw camel milk.
The agency had warned the owner of a small Missouri farm, which accounts for the bulk of raw camel milk production in the U.S., to refrain from shipping it outside that state. The owner had reportedly agreed to the FDA’s order.
Now, a number of media are reporting that the FDA is asking a federal court to allow it to seize raw camel milk from the farm, known as Hump-Back Dairys, along with that of a national distributor of camel milk, Desert Farms.
Desert Farms is understood to be a key distributor of the Hump-Back Dairys milk, along with that of lower-volume farms. The Desert Farms web site reflects the huge impact of the FDA action on the availability of raw camel milk—the site shows availability of pasteurized camel milk, but no availability of fluid raw camel milk, raw camel milk kefir, or camel milk powder.
Food Safety News, which has the most complete account of the FDA action, says the FDA is asking the federal court to allow it to seize more than $70,000 worth of raw camel milk, some of it frozen, in storage in Kansas.
Desert Farms is understood to supply thousands of families around the country, many of which include autistic children. Many of these children experience a reduction of symptoms from the raw camel milk—a more significant reduction than provided by raw cow’s milk.
The government’s latest assault on camel milk is bad news for these families on several counts. First, it indicates that the FDA has no worries of objections from President Trump or his attorney general, Jeff Sessions. There was some hope among Trump supporters that he would show his commitment to reducing regulation by keeping the FDA in check in its long campaign against raw milk. Second, there is no indication that either Hump-Back Dairys or Desert Farms are equipped to mount an aggressive defense against the feds.
When I spoke to Samuel Hostetler, the owner of Hump-Back, yesterday he told me, “We are totally in compliance with the FDA. We don’t ship milk across state lines.” Any Hump-Back milk shipped out of state by Desert Farms “went to a powder company,” which turns the milk into powder, which he says is okay with the FDA. “If they (Desert Farms) did something else with it, that is beyond our contract.” It’s not very hopeful when one of the two FDA targets is blaming the other for the problem.
The owner of Desert Farms, Walid Abdul-Wahab, didn’t respond to my phone and email requests for comment.
Raw camel milk continues to be produced by smaller farms around the country, but it likely will be made available to existing customers, or at prices elevated beyond previous high prices. Even before the FDA push for seizure in Kansas, the price was $100 or more per gallon.
It’s difficult to understand why the FDA would be so intent on depriving people of access to a food that hasn’t been associated with illness, and has provided relief to many families for a condition that can’t be helped by pharmaceuticals. There are no corporations to protect, and lots of people to help. Moreover, the prohibition on interstate shipment and sale of raw milk can be interpreted as exempting raw camel milk, since camels aren’t hoofed animals, as specified in the prohibition. Are the FDA dairy people just so jaded after so many years of trying to destroy raw milk that they can’t appreciate how important it is to autistic families to find relief? Or can they just not resist such easy legal targets?