FDA agents Diana Guidry (left) and Audra Ashmore, at Morningland Dairy in Missouri, in September 2010. The public health profession has its marching orders from the dairy industry and its puppet U.S. Centers for Disease Control: We need higher numbers of illnesses attributed to raw milk. Use every means you can think of to stir up fear, even if it means making up illnesses. 


More significant, once you have established the precedent of concocting out of thin air statistics that have no basis in fact, you are then free to regularly report phantom illnesses from raw milk, even if the actual officially tabulated number sinks to near zero, which is the goal of the Raw Milk Institute (RAWMI).  We create money out of thin air, why not cases of food-borne illness? 


You think I am exaggerating when I accuse the CDC, via the Minnesota Department of Health, of making up illnesses? After all, it is quite a serious accusation, that serious scientists would fabricate their numbers. It is, in the academic world, a reason for invalidating the research, and dismissing tenured professors..


But what else can you conclude when the Minnesota Department of Health, concludes, after mind-bending statistical acrobatics, in a research paper (available at the bottom of the Minnesota Public Radio page I linked to) published (and bankrolled) by the CDC yesterday–it “estimated that up to 20,502 Minnesotans, or 17% of raw milk consumers, may have become ill with enteric pathogens during the study period after consuming raw milk. This finding suggests that outbreaks represent a small number of the illnesses associated with raw milk consumption and that the risk for illness associated with raw milk consumption is far greater than determined based on the occurrence of recognized outbreaks.”


Those 20,502 supposed illnesses grow out of a handful of recorded illnesses in Minnesota during the decade 2001-2010–five outbreaks that resulted in seven hospitalizations and one case of hemolytic uremic syndrome–a total of 21 illnesses over ten years. How was the Minnesota Department of Health able to turn 21 reported illnesses into 20,502?


Underlying its hocus-pocus math is the erroneous (and highly intentional) assumption that illnesses from raw milk are under-reported, when, in fact, illnesses from raw milk are obsessively chased down and recorded by state public health and agriculture officials. Once they make the connection to raw milk, it is a fairly simple step to locate the producer–certainly simpler than for most other foods,  since raw milk is so highly regulated that most sales are made directly from dairies to individuals, and even in places like California, which allow retail sales, there are only two or three dairies selling at retail. There’s little of the complication as  with illnesses from spinach or cantaloupes or lettuce or tacos of trying to figure out exactly which farm or food vendor the food came from. 


But once the MN Department of Health makes the assumption of raw milk illnesses being under-reported, it is then intellectually free to examine cases of campylobacter and E.coli O157:H7 that haven’t been pinned on a particular food, and pull out all those in which the sickened individuals drank raw milk, and blame raw milk for those illnesses. 


We got a taste of this tactic in the second trial of Alvin Schlangen earlier this year. when the prosecutor used an illness by someone who had consumed raw milk, together with various fast foods, to scare the jury about the dangers of Schlangen’s raw milk. This individual was no doubt included in this new study as someone who was re-classified as having been sickened by raw milk, even though the health department history showed he had also eaten chicken both at home and in a restaurant (upwards of two-thirds of all chicken in the U.S. has been shown in various studies to contain campylobacter or salmonella), as well as meatballs and spaghetti at a Spaghetti Factory and a sausage and egg muffin at McDonald’s. 


So…..the new rule put forth by this study is a radical departure from past public health data analysis–if you get sick from campylobacter or E.coli O157:H7 or salmonella and you have consumed raw milk, then any other culprits, like chicken or fast food, are automatically eliminated and you are assumed to have been sickened by raw milk. 

But wait, there’s more. The Minnesota study took the 530 newly classified cases of raw milk illnesses and applied “pathogen-specific underdiagnosis multipliers” to the numbers. These “multipliers,” of generally 30 to 100, are used to estimate illnesses from various pathogens based on the public health inference that many illnesses go unreported, usually because the victims recover quickly enough to not even consult with a physician so as to seek a medical diagnosis. 


And presto, faster than you can say “raw milk made me sick,” you’ve turned 21 illnesses into more than 20,000 illnesses that are blamed on raw milk in Minnesota from 2001 to 2010.  The study becomes positively laughable when the authors conclude that, based on those 20,000-plus illnesses, that more than 17 per cent of all Minnesota raw milk drinkers got sick during the decade 2001-2010. The reason it is laughable is that few of the hundreds of raw milk drinkers I have ever met, many of them in Minnesota, knows anyone who has ever become ill.  


Actually, there is a precedent for this hocus-pocus mathematics. It is that famous estimate put out by the CDC, and regularly reported as fact by American media, that 48 million people, one in six of all Americans, are sickened each year by foodborne illness. That number similarly emerges from “under-diagnosis multipliers” and  various other multipliers and mathematical gyrations to take fewer than 30,000 actual reported illnesses each year in CDC databases and turn them into 48 million illnesses. Ask a family practice physician if one in six of his or her patients get sick each year from foodborne illness, and they will laugh at you. There see a handful of illnesses each year, at most. 


Well, you might say, let them do their funny math, if that is what gives them their jollies. We’ll just go ahead and keep drinking our raw milk, And besides, this study will likely have the effect of studies before it, which is to  act as a marketing promotion, encouraging more raw milk consumption from the growing legions of Americans who discount most of what the FDA and CDC advise, and just do the opposite. 


The problem with these fraudulent studies is that they are used to enact policy, very serious policy. That estimate of 48 million Americans being sickened each year was the catalyst for passing the Food Safety Modernization Act, which goes into effect next year, and gives the FDA unprecedented powers over small farms. 


So the question that presents itself with this Minnesota study is this: what will be the policy ramifications affecting raw milk? After all, if you multiply the 20,000 Minnesota illnesses now attributed to raw milk by 50 states, you have one million people who can be trumpeted as having been sickened by raw milk. Don’t think the CDC/FDA won’t do it (I shouldn’t be giving them ideas, I suppose, but they are already well along the fraud path.)The study’s authors conclude their study by saying they want to “educate….policymakers who might be asked by constituents to relax regulations regarding raw milk sales.” In other words, they want to restrict ever more raw milk availability. 


When I read this study, I had the feeling of someone who works in a company town–lives in company housing, shops in the company store, travels on company roads–and is getting close to paying down his debt. I tell the clerk at the company store that I have just a few payments before I’m finally free and clear. He laughs. “You haven’t been paying attention. You have all these additional taxes and fees that have been tacked onto your account, to build new roads, new stores, new schools. You owe more now than you owed five years ago.” 


RAWMI (the Raw Milk Institute) is kind of like the guy who works in the company town. RAWMI is committed to reducing the number of illnesses associated with raw milk, by setting standards and training raw dairy producers to improve their production practices. The goal is to gradually reduce the number of food-borne illnesses, and thereby win over the public health and agriculture communities to the notion that raw milk isn’t inherently unsafe, and can be reliably produced as a safe and healthy food. Any number of these regulators have said it’s a simple proposition: show us that people aren’t getting sick from raw milk, and we’ll leave you alone.


But the Minnesota study is like the guy working in the company store who starts laughing at such crazy talk about paying down the debt. “Don’t you realize, you’ll never reduce the number of illnesses. You may think you’ve reduced the number of officially reported illnesses, but we’ll go through the data of people who get sick from food, and all those who have consumed raw milk will be automatically counted as raw milk illnesses. Then, we’ll apply the “under-diagnosis multipliers” so there will be even more illnesses from raw milk. So, you’ll never get that number down, because people will keep getting food-borne illnesses from all kinds of foods, and we’ll keep doing lots of multiplication. Everyone who drinks raw milk and gets sick from any food borne illness will count for 40 or 50 or 100 additional raw milk illnesses.”


Why have we seen such blatant corruption of the public health profession? In my book, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights, I chronicle the militarization of the public health profession in the U.S. as it has become corrupted by a corporate agenda committed to stamping out raw milk and other nutrient-dense foods and promoting factory and GMO foods designed to weaken and sicken.  Where once the public health profession was dedicated to reducing illness from dangerous pathogens like tuberculosis, typhoid fever, and brucellosis, now many of its agents are part of the U.S. Department of Defense, via the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps., and committed to protecting the corporate agenda. 

In the photo above, you see two FDA agents dressed for battle–the “battle” was the FDA raid of Morningland Dairy in Missouri back in 2010. Their appearance in military fatigues at a small cheese producer that had only expressed a desire to cooperate (and had no one ever become sick from its cheese) says it all, as far as I am concerned. (The FDA and Missouri Milk Board succeeded in eventually shuttering Morningland.) This Minnesota/CDC study just puts an exclamation mark on that photo. 

The Minnesota/CDC’s authors might have summarized their study more simply: We are going to beat your asses, if we have to use force, intellectual fraud, trumped up criminal charges, or any other technique. Don’t mess with Uncle.