Yes, I guess it was it was an oversight in my previous post, on the absence of popular opposition to raw milk, to neglect to mention the role of the dairy industry in pushing regulators to take such a hard line on raw dairy. But as long as I’m admitting to oversights, there is another one, as well, and that’s the role of the media.
Here’s the problem: The efforts to clamp down on raw dairy (including raw cheese, as Bill Anderson correctly points out), are being carried out supposedly in the interests of food safety. The regulators, in their quest to promote goodness and the American way, want to “protect” us, they frequently tell us.
What tends to get overlooked is that the media buy into the regulator shtick…hook, line, and sinker. For corroboration, all you have to do is look at two recent news stories—first, the case of Morningland Dairy, the Missouri raw cheese maker being singled out for the equivalent of State-sponsored torture by the Missouri Milk Board, and its overseer, the FDA…and second, the fate of S 510, the U.S. Senate bill designed to give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration vast new powers over the food system.
Morningland Dairy’s only “crime” was selling cheese to Rawesome Food Club, the Los Angeles private food club that’s been targeted by The State apparatus because of its vendetta against the club’s co-founder, Aajonus Vonderplanitz. Plain and simple.
Morningland sells cheese around the country, and has been doing so for thirty years without problem. But The State is having difficulty finding ways to counter Vonderplanitz, so it’s searched high and low for some way or another to interfere with his food club initiatives. And finally, after months of poring over the crates of food it seized in the armed June 30 raid on Rawesome, which included some cheese from Morningland, The State (California Department of Food and Agriculture and the FDA in this phase) found what I am assuming was a few cells of listeria in some of the Morningland cheese (since no one has become ill). That was in August. Since then, The State (now in the form of the Missouri Milk Board) has not only prohibited Morningland from shipping any cheese, but is insisting on destroying $250,000 worth of cheese in inventory. The Milk Board has even obtained a court injunction to force the issue. The effect has been to put Morningland on the verge of bankruptcy.
The State’s posture on Morningland is unprecedented, from what I can determine. I have been unable to find any other such case in which a food producer that has made no one ill, and has no documented problems with its production facilities (the FDA took more than 100 swabs in an inspection of the Morningland facilities a few weeks ago and found no pathogens), is prohibited from selling its product.
You’d think this might be a story in some of the media, even the big foodie blogs that worry so much about such things as what Michelle Obama is serving at luncheon in the White House or whether dairy cows are producing too much methane might pick up on the Morningland case. No, the only other foodie blogger besides me who has done anything substantial on Morningland is Kimberly Hartke, who ten days ago published a piece by Missouri food rights activist Doreen Hannes that Kim says brought a lot of traffic to her site.
The second news story at work here is U.S. Senate Bill S 510. If you look at the media coverage of S 510, you’ll be hard pressed to find a single major media or consumer organization seriously questioning S 510. Yes, the media may quote some opponents here and there, but mostly, they can’t express enough outrage about the highly publicized outbreaks of illness from spinach, ground beef, eggs, and other such products that they are certain S 510 will end. Typical is this article on Huffington Post criticizing the efforts of Sen. Tom Coburn to block the legislation.
A couple days ago, one foodie blogger on a listserv I subscribe to that includes dozens of food blogs, sent out a plea for support of the efforts by proponents of S 510 to invoke cloture, and thus end debate on S 510. The cloture vote, if successful, would render Sen. Coburn and other Senate opponents mute, unable to block a vote. I wrote a comment on the listserv expressing serious reservations about the additional powers granted the FDA by S 510. The unprecedented stomping on Morningland Dairy is just one glaring example of FDA excess we’ll see more of if S 510 passes.
I asked in my comment whether there was a single food blogger who had any reservations about S 510. The ether went silent.
Most reporters and bloggers like to think they are standing up for ordinary people in their reporting and positions. In the case of S 510 and food safety regulation, the ordinary people likeliest to suffer the biggest impact are the ordinary people like those who run Morningland Dairy, and are being tarred, feathered, and run out of town by the FDA.
And when reporters try to do their job, in reporting on a Big Ag company and its milk hormone, well, this can be the result.