“Currently, there is no such thing as ‘food rights’.” — Richard Lerner

From Richard Lerner on the Metro West Daily News:

Seemingly reckless consumption of milk -- not sure if it is raw or not. Photo via Rebel Rebel Tumblr

“…Yes, the rhetoric around raw milk is heated. The reason that those involved in public health get so bent out of shape about raw milk is twofold: 1) It turns the clock back on science, on proven methods for reducing foodborne illness, and 2) due to the vociferous, combative nature of its proponents, we are required to spend time on a food item that is (fortunately) consumed by a minuscule portion of the population.

And yes, I have heard (ad nauseam) all of the arguments for raw milk, I am not going to respond to each one here. You can find them on the unedited comments section, and form your own responses. Some of them are so flimsy as to be embarrassing to their writers, and it is not my purpose to embarrass the ignorant. What I would like to do, instead, is respond to valid concerns about what public policy should be concerning food safety:

– Currently, there is no such thing as “food rights.” You have no more right to buy raw milk at the grocery store than you have the right to eat in a restaurant that has been closed by the Department of Public Health.

– Decisions of science are not determined at an open public forum. The public at large can debate what to do with scientific consensus once it is determined, but the consensus is not equally informed by experts and non-experts. (Somehow, the Framingham Board of Health thinks otherwise, but we now have a board completely staffed by non-experts.)

– Comparing one food to another in terms of risk is spurious. Foods are prepared and consumed differently, and comparing raw milk to beef, chicken, bean sprouts, or gummy bears is useless.

– The government has never told anyone that he or she can’t drink raw milk. What the government has said is that it has the right to regulate commerce in raw milk, the same as it has the right to regulate commerce in tobacco, pork, and gummy bears.

I am sorry that farmers in Massachusetts are reduced to selling an unsafe product to make ends meet. Alas, one of the conundrums of promoting raw milk is that as more farmers sell it, the price drops. (What a surprise, that this miracle product is not also immune to the laws of supply and demand.) An answer? I would consider it a proper use of government to support local agriculture. Of course, the fierce libertarian streak of our Yankee farmers would render them unable to accept such government largess, but, then again, I’m just saying.

Richard Lerner, DVM, MPH, is a veterinarian who lives in Framingham.

Read more: http://www.milforddailynews.com/archive/x719610411/Lerner-Truth-public-health-and-raw-milk#ixzz1Jifs9KwW


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8 responses to ““Currently, there is no such thing as ‘food rights’.” — Richard Lerner

  1. nedlud

    I always wondered why, vets, when they treat an animal and it dies, still think they should get paid.

    That just doesn’t seem right.

    That law of supply and demand seems a little out of kilter.

    • thebovine

      Well the vet is the expert. They did the best they could. It’s not their fault if the animal didn’t respond to treatment!

      • The more I stay away from the raw milk issue, the happier I am. There are dozens of more pressing public health issues. I wish the raw milk advocates would bring that same passion to problems of health disparities, rising infant mortality in the US, the spoiling of watersheds, the two useless wars our country is engaged in….

        As for rights, it’s just my opinion. I am no legal expert. I am merely stating what I perceive to be the situation, based on talking with legal experts and having worked in public health.

        And, yes, vets do expect to be paid even when the animal dies. We can only do our best. I don’t know anyone who can guarantee results.

    • Charlotte

      Why should a vet not be paid for his advice such as a Lawyer? The corporate Pharmaceutical companies get paid when you are sick even knowing you will die too…

  2. Charlotte

    There is a lot of science that differs than what is accepted by our ‘corporate governance’ that science needs to be presented publicly so we can ‘choose’. As the system stands now very few really benefit from any public policy. The NDP candidate for my constituency confronted me on my way out of the farmer’s market yesterday telling me how they are going to fund the womens groups that Harper is letting go. I said tell me why we don’t label GMO foods, we are ignoring the scientists telling us that Nuclear energy is dangerous and I can’t drink real milk that came from a cow….unadulterated…I am sure he thought I am radical meaning REDICULOUSLY DELUSIONAL!

  3. Janeen

    No food rights, eh?? huh. We’ll just see about that…

    Some how all the fat, pre-diabetes kids have the “right” to buy untold amounts of junk at their schools vending machines… How can they even PRETEND is “for the public’s good” and NOT about market protectionism!!!!

    • cheryl hadden

      “One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all’.” (Martin Luther King – Letter from Birmingham Prison, Alabama)

  4. cheryl hadden

    Talking about laws…
    Today I read where the newly appointed, not elected, Emergency Manager for the city of Benton Harbor, Michigan, sent out his first memo. Would you care to see it?
    Yes, our puppet of a governor has gone and carried out his threat that any community or school district that was in debt would be taken over by a Emergency Manager appointed by HIM. This person would have full power to eliminate any board, any city council, fire people, cancel any contracts, dissolve unions and pretty much anything he wants to do, all with the governors blessing and without consent of the people.
    And then he did it last week and this week it all goes into action.
    This is how it will be done from now on, no more elections, no meetings, no asking what the people want, and it’s all legal. At least that is what’s being told, the legislators pass a bill, the gov signs and PRESTO CHANGO, IT’S LAW!
    This means they can virtually do, or block anything they want.
    Already the FDA has said we have no rights regarding food!
    But they are wrong, we are not sheep, we are not blind and ignorant being lead to the slaughter.
    I’m so mad I could chew tacks!
    Here’s the ORDER HE ISSUED LAST FRIDAY in its entirety.
    We have to stop this insanity, what is the next target?
    If an unelected person can just be given that kind of power, where does it end, what is the limit? I can’t see any limits, he’s second only to God himself, answerable to no one!

    ORDER NO.: 11-C5


    I, Joseph L. Harris, the duly appointed Emergency Manager for the City of Benton
    Harbor, Michigan (the “City”), pursuant to the power and authority granted by Act 4 of the
    Public Acts of Michigan of 2011, being MCL 141.1501 et seq (the “Act”), do hereby resolve and
    order as follows:
    WHEREAS, Section 19(ee) provides that the Emergency Manager may exercise any
    power or authority of any office, employee, department, board, commission or similar entity of
    the City, whether elected or appointed;
    WHEREAS, the power of the Emergency Manager as set forth in Section 19(ee) of the
    Act is superior to and supersedes any such officer or entity; and
    WHEREAS, now, no City Board, Commission or Authority has authority or power to act
    on behalf of the City as provided in the Act.

    1. Absent prior express written authorization and approval by the Emergency
    Manager, no City Board, Commission or Authority shall take any action for or on behalf of the
    City whatsoever other than:

    i) Call a meeting to order.
    ii) Approve of meeting minutes.
    iii) Adjourn a meeting.
    2. That all prior resolutions, or acts of any kind of the City in conflict herewith are
    and the same shall be, to the extent of such conflict, rescinded.
    3. This order shall be effective immediately.

    City of Benton Harbor
    Dated: April 14,2011
    Emergency Manager

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