Will we finally get an updated photo of the FDA's chief dairy bureaucrat, John Sheehan, during the debate over "Milk Freedom" legislation?The proposed legislation to rescind or liberalize the federal ban on interstate raw milk sales holds out the prospect of a national debate on raw milk. 


How so? There will need to be one or more hearings on the legislation before the House committee with responsibility for the legislation. 


An aide to Kentucky Cong. Thomas Massie, who is leading the bipartisan “Milk Freedom” legislative effort, says he doesn’t have a specific timetable for when hearings could be held, but emailed me, “We hope sooner rather than later.” The hearings would be held before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.  


I’m not sure Cong. Massie and his coalition of 18 other conservatives and liberals fully appreciate what they have gotten themselves into. The debate growing out of their well intentioned legislation to get the federal government out of policing raw milk won’t be pretty. In fact, it will likely be downright ugly. 


Given the corporate dairy industry’s immediate negative reaction to the legislation, all dirty options are open. The industry could get its committee members on the Big Ag payroll to bury the legislation without a hearing. But if a hearing comes together, I think it is fair to say it could be, how shall we say, contentious. 


The dairy industry has already telegraphed its strategy: a full-scale, bare knuckle, blood-and-guts, full-court press with fear mongering on a level that will be a surprise to much of the general public. Of course, those who follow this blog know well what the industry, and its captive patrons, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, are capable of when it comes to fear mongering. 


The president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation put it this way: “If this measure passes, those most vulnerable to dangerous pathogens – children – are the ones who will suffer the most. The benefits of consuming raw milk are illusory, but the painful costs of illness and death are very real. Consumption of raw milk is a demonstrated public health risk. The link between raw milk and foodborne illness has been well?documented in the scientific literature, with evidence spanning nearly 100 years.


Translation: If your Congressional representative votes in favor of this legislation, blood will be on his or her hands because kids will die. 


The dairy industry isn’t even bothering with its old argument that illnesses from raw milk will taint the entire dairy industry. No, this is going to be all blood-and-guts. 


Expect the dairy corporation bigwigs, America’s version of  oligarchs, to pull out all the stops, including the following: 


-The industry will fly individuals from around the country who have been sickened by raw milk to Washington via corporate jet to testify. 

-The dairy industry will also fly in scientists who will testify that raw milk is inherently unsafe. 

-The dairy industry will fly in bigwigs from the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatricians, among other bastions of the medical establishment, to similarly beat the fear drums. 


Only a few details remain up on the air at this time; for example:

-Will the families of those flown in by Big Dairy be put up at in Washingon at the Hay Adams, the Ritz, the Intercontinental, or the Jefferson hotels? 

-Will they have limos at their disposal to get tours of Washington? 

-Will the head of the FDA’s dairy division,  John Sheehan, finally make a personal appearance before a crowd that may include detractors, and actually read his testimony (rather than just submit a copy, as he does in state legislatures) so we can get an updated photo of the mystery bureaucrat to add to the five-year-old one produced here (again)? 

-Will an official of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control appear and explain the voodoo math used to argue that raw milk is 150 times more dangerous than pasteurized? 

-Will the CDC offer a bounty to get the 20,000-plus Minnesota raw milk drinkers it argues have been sickened to come and testify? 


What I’m driving at is that the pro raw milk crowd had better be prepared to do more than just sit in uncomfortable silence when parents at the witness stand show photos and videos of children on dialysis machines from tainted raw milk. Some matters they may want the committee to explore:

— Will it bring in relatives of the three individuals who died from pasteurized milk in Massachusetts in 2007? 

—Might the committee include the woman who lost her fetus as a result of the same tainted pasteurized milk? 

—Will the committee fly in relatives of the individual who died from bad pasteurized cheese in Wisconsin last year, along with the woman who miscarried?  

–How about the newborns and moms sickened by cheese from Delaware last year that its producer says was made “with the strictest pasteurization processes and fulfilling the sanitary aspects demanded by the F.D.A.”?


Yes, this is a distasteful discussion, one I’d rather not be writing about, but one that is essential. That is because, for the Big Dairy forces, NOTHING will be off limits. This is about billions of dollars in prize money. In the industry’s eyes, it will be battling for continued domination of an oligopoly that detests competition, especially from impudent small farms that have the audacity to think they can sell dairy products at a profit, and cut out the dairy processor middlemen. Yes, we have our American oligarchs and they will fight as hard and as dirty as those in Russia for control of land and markets. 

Raw milk advocates better be ready for the battle of the body bags.