What makes raw milk different from raw spinach? In a comment following my previous post about the MarlerClark presentation, Lykke picks up on the suggestion by Bruce Clark that the spinach industry has been motivated by court suits to work extra hard to correct its problems. The implication, as Don Wittlinger and Syliva Gibson point out, is that raw dairies refuse to do the same thing.

Of course, we know that isn’t the case. Regulators have long argued that spinach and other produce growers need to clean up their act. Regulators never argue that raw dairies need to clean up their act. They only argue that raw dairies produce a dangerous product and access to raw milk should be restricted.

Rarely was that difference more clearly on display than in the raw milk symposium Tuesday sponsored by the International Association for Food Protection. The distinction was highlighted by Bruce Clark’s slide heading, “Here’s What ‘Real Milk’ Does”. Does he do the same heading when he markets at other symposia (and this was marketing, pure and simple) in other such cases involving E.coli 0157:H7, “Here’s What Raw Spinach Does”, “Here’s What Peanut Butter Does”, “Here’s What Taco Bell Tacos Do”, “Here’s What Sushi Does”? I don’t think so.

The fact is that when raw dairies seek cooperation with ag officials, with very few exceptions they get only the back of the regulatory hand. And individuals prominent in the public health arena are pushing ever harder for the use of brute force over cooperation. That became very clear in a presentation was by Caroline Smith DeWaal, Food Safety Director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

She actually started out pretty rationally. The peanut butter contamination had hit mostly children, she said. And she noted, “Produce is four times more likely and seafood thirty times more likely to make people sick than dairy.”

So what’s the logical conclusion from that? Well, of course, you crack down on raw milk, right? What other logic is there?

Actually, the moment she said, “I drank raw milk when I was in college,” I knew logic was out the window. It’s amazing how many of the regulator/policy wonk types say they drank raw milk as kids, as if to say, “Yeah, I also did drag racing,” or “I mainlined heroin.”

For DeWaal, though, the whole thing led to near hysteria. She argued that “dairy outbreaks increased dramatically in 2005 and 2006, in large part due to a rise in outbreaks from unpasteurized dairy products.” Even accepting that her data are accurate (which is a stretch, since many of the reports blaming raw milk are questionable, not accepted by individuals who became sick), her solution was radical.

“Raw milk suppliers are operating outside the federal system” that bans interstate shipments of raw milk, she said. So? “We were all troubled to see the melamine outbreaks” in Chinese milk, she said. “What else is being added to the products?”

I’m not making this up. Here are the bullet points from her slide about “Intrastate shipment of raw milk”:

–“Raw milk suppliers are operating outside this state/federal system by selling their products locally, and never shipping them across state lines.

–“The absence of effective state oversight could lead to additional problems, like the addition of milk extenders in China that lead to the melamine tragedy.”

And I thought the Center for Science in the Public Interest was about what its name suggests. No, this kindly do-gooder wants to protect us consumers of raw milk from melamine and other additives being added to our raw milk. Try telling someone in that frame of mind about the beneficial probiotic qualities of raw milk as described by Miguel and Ken Conrad. I don’t think they are listening too closely.

Before I could fully absorb her melamine hysteria, someone during her Q&A asked if the government should require pasteurization of mother’s milk. Pumendu Vasavada, the University of Wisconsin microbiologist, actually took the question seriously: “I would not make a law requiring you to pasteurize it because how would you enforce it?” Of course, that’s the real question here.

No, the real question is this: How serious is John Sheehan, dairy czar at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and all his coolies and cohorts like DeWaal and Vasavada about denying us raw milk? The answer is that they remain more serious than ever. They are cooking up every excuse you can think of, along with excuses you haven’t thought of. Next on their agenda may well be an effort to obtain a federal ban on herdshares, which have expanded significantly as a distribution mechanism for raw milk. These arrogant paper shufflers will stop at nothing to deny us wholesome foods, and they are revving up for much more.