David E. Gumpert’s latest thoughts on the evolving raw milk scene in America. Is demand for product leading to cut corners and compromised quality in the raw milk marketplace? An excerpt:
“…..The more I learn about raw milk illnesses, the more I realize how naïve many of us raw milk consumers are.
Now, raw milk consumers are experiencing bouts of uncertainty and doubt. In Michigan, for example, shareholders from Family Farms Co-op are scrambling to find new sources of raw milk now that its main source, Forest Grove Dairy, has discontinued distribution.
But now, they carry with them a seed of doubt. Which dairies are safest? Which dairies are potentially risky? How can they best assess the dairies?
As a friend of mine might put it: Earth to Houston, we have a raw dairy problem.
Of course, as far as the public health and medical establishments are concerned, we have long had a problem. In their view, whenever people consume raw dairy products, it’s a problem.
But finally, raw dairy proponents are coming around to the view we have a problem. While everyone agrees it’s not the problem the authorities would have us believe, there is a growing consensus that we have a problem, or rather a number of problems.
I should note that these are really problems of success in the sense that they stem from raw milk’s fast-growing popularity. Here are a few of the problems:
— At least some farmers are slipping up in their production of safe raw milk. That doesn’t mean raw milk can’t be produced safely on a consistent basis. Obviously, many dozens of dairies are doing it day in and day out, year after year. But as Tim Wightman of the Farm-to-Consumer Foundation points out in a comment following my previous post, “…there is value in understanding what happened with Dee Creek, The Alexanders, The Zinnikers, and now Forest Grove Dairy.”
–Prominent raw milk proponents remain in denial about not only the nature of the current difficulties, but whether there is even a problem. In my previous post, I quoted a couple of sickened members of the Weston A. Price Foundation expressing concern about the organization’s unwillingness to accept the reality that people can and do become ill from consuming raw milk. Blair McMorran, in a comment following my previous post, says, “I can’t understand the ‘WAPF intimidation’ expressed by the people who got sick. I’ve always understood WAPF’s mantra as ‘Know Your Source.’” Others commenters say they have the same understanding. Unfortunately, WAPF speaks with a forked tongue. The other part of the WAPF mantra, the dominant part, invariably denies the reality of outbreaks at small dairies, and in so doing, in effect blames the victim. After all, if you can’t get sick from a grass-based raw dairy’s milk, you, Mr./Ms. Campylobacter Patient, must have some other problem. As one prime example of the denial that continues, the WAPF still has a long post on its web site authored by its leader, Sally Fallon, casting doubts on the outbreak of illness at Dee Creek in Washington state in 2005—an outbreak that seems clearly to have resulted from contaminated raw milk. “While state officials express confidence that the outbreak was caused by raw milk, they have ignored many facts that call their conclusions into question,” concludes Sally Fallon’s report. Similarly, the organization assumed the denial role for contaminated raw milk in the Zinniker case in Wisconsin last year, when it accused Wisconsin investigators of “bias and inaccuracies,” even though it acknowledged that “DNA test results allegedly found the same strain of C. jejuni in 25 of the patients and manure samples obtained from 14 out of 30 milking cows on the farm…” And for Mark McAfee of Organic Pastures Dairy Co. to revert to saying, following my previous post, that two children likely made seriously ill from raw milk might have gotten sick from spinach is to contradict his own statements in previous comments that the children could well have become ill from his milk, and further the denial sense. Just refer to the previous acknowledgments and leave the entire matter be….”