NPR raw milk debate: WAPF’s Sally Fallon versus food lawyer Bill Marler

From David E. Gumpert on the Complete Patient blog:

Lawyer Bill Marler and the WAPF's Sally Fallon

“It continues to amaze me how controversial and provocative a topic raw milk is. Every few weeks, it seems, more media outlets are writing and broadcasting about it. In media lingo, raw milk “has legs.”

Most recently, a Washington, DC, NPR station promoted a debate between Sally Fallon of the Weston A. Price Foundation, and Bill Marler, the product liability lawyer. The two debaters threw brickbats at each other, including not a few exaggerations and half-truths.

For instance, they traded jabs about the illness outbreak affecting six children attributed to Organic Pastures Dairy Co. five years ago, in 2006. Fallon continued to say, as she has on a number of occasions, that the two children who became most seriously ill had eaten spinach (the outbreak occurred in the midst of an outbreak of illness from raw spinach) even though the genetic imprint of the E.coli 0157:H7 isolated from several of the children was different from that of the spinach oubreak. I’m not sure why she dwells on that particular inaccuracy, which upsets the families involved no end.

And Marler? He argued as if it’s a simple fact of law that the Amish farmer Daniel Allgyer (the target of a U.S. Food and Drug Administration suit last April seeking a permanent injunction against the shipping of his milk to Maryland) was guilty of “the sale of raw milk across state lines, which is illegal and has been since the late ’80s…” Never mind that the private distribution that occurred wasn’t necessarily “interstate commerce,” and hasn’t been decided by a court–details, details.

And he repeated his cute little quarter-truth about “the reality of the science that raw milk, you know, is a product because of the location of the cow’s teets to the cow’s anus, the likelihood of getting it contaminated is high…”, ignoring the reality that most dairies use automated milking machines that prevent milk from ever coming close “to the cow’s anus,” and that the likelihood of contamination is in fact quite low….”

Read it all on The Complete Patient blog.

Now here’s Bill Marler’s take on the debate, from his Food Safety blog:

“Publisher’s Platform: ‘Dead’ Milk vs. ‘Magic’ Milk
“Dead Milk” 23, “Magic Milk” 202

So, who is winning?

I was asked to talk with Sally Fallon Morrell on the Kojo Nnamdi show on WAMU Public Radio in D.C. last week in what the host determined to be the “Raw Milk Wars.” The producer who called me said that she had tried to find someone, anyone, in public health to go on the show, but everyone refused. So, she was left with me.

Sally, who has become famous for her pronouncement that raw milk is “magic” was pleasant enough, as were the host and the callers — even my friend Harry. Some of the comments on the WAMU were a bit harsh, but after two decades of being a lawyer, I am more than used to that. I especially warm to the comments by members of the “Teat Party.”

I was struck by a number of things Sally said during the show. One assertion she said made me think I need to do the experiment she suggested of putting Campylobacter in raw milk, leaving it in the fridge for two days with the bottle cap off and, like magic, the Campylobacter disappears…..”

Read it all on Bill Marler’s Food Safety News.


Bill Marler photo via PBS

Here’s an excerpt from the transcript of the actual debate on NPR:


It’s the common substance that moms are driving to undisclosed drop-off spots to buy on the black market that Congressman Ron Paul is pushing to legalize, and that FDA federal agents are raiding Amish farms to bust. If you guessed that we’re talking about raw milk, you’re probably a member of the Grassfed On The Hill group or one of the other area groups that helps bring this illegal substance to local residents.


The debate over raw versus pasteurized dairy is still raging in the Washington region. Joining us to explore how it’s triggering conversations about public safety and freedom of choice and our diets is Sally Fallon Morell. She’s a journalist, chef, nutrition researcher and community activist. She’s also president of the Weston A. Price Foundation, a consumer nutrition advocacy organization.


She’s also the author of “Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats.” Sally Fallon, thank you for joining us.


Kojo, thanks for having me back.


She joins us in our Washington studio. Joining us by phone from Seattle, Wash., is Bill Marler. He’s an attorney who specializes in food-borne illness litigation. He practices at the firm Marler Clark. Bill Marler, thank you for joining us.


Thank you.


Also, it’s a conversation that I’m made to understand a lot of people will want to join. So you can do that by calling us at 800-433-8850. What concerns do you have about the safety of raw foods for sale at the grocery stores and markets where you shop? You can go to our website, Join the conversation there. What role do you think the government should play in regulating the safety of raw milk?


Send us a tweet, @kojoshow, or email to Sally, raw milk or unpasteurized milk is not a new phenomenon. Over the past decade, it’s gained popularity as people started to shift their ideas of where food should come from and how it should be processed. We talked about raw milk with you on this broadcast several years ago, but it still is illegal to sell raw milk in the Maryland and Washington, D.C. area. Where do we stand as of now with the current war over raw milk?


Well, I think the most significant thing, Kojo, is that the consumption has increased dramatically. The CDC had — it did a survey, a FoodNet survey in 2007 which found that 3 percent of the population drinks raw milk, which translates to about 9.4 million people. And that is surely a much bigger number today.


It — this desire to have what I call real milk, which is not only raw but comes from pasture-based farms and is full fat, all of these components are necessary for the milk to be safe. It is piggybacking on the local foods movement, the desire to get away from industrial foods and to get back to unprocessed, farm-raised, local, nourishing foods.


For those out there who have never consumed raw milk — and I consumed it as a child growing up in Guyana, South America, where we had it delivered to our backdoor just about every single day. We didn’t call it raw milk then. We just called it milk because…




…we didn’t have pasteurized milk…






…at the time. But for those who have never tasted — and my mother always warmed it up before she gave it to us, so I guess she self-pasteurized it in a way. But can you give us a sense for what it tastes like because I’m operating from memory here.


It’s a wonderful taste. It’s a taste that actually can bring tears to your eyes. It’s creamy. It’s sweet, and there are alkaloids, very delicate alkaloids in milk that give overtones of vanilla, chocolate and coffee. Imagine that all in one beverage.


It’s fair to say that it’s pretty different from grocery store milk.


Absolutely. These flavor compounds are really very delicate. Your mother was right to warm it up. She wasn’t really pasteurizing it. She was bringing it to a warm temperature, and that’s when you get the best flavor in the milk.


Bill Marler, I’ll start with you. Nearly all dairy products sold in the United States are pasteurized using a heat treatment to extend shelf life and kill potentially harmful microorganisms, like E. coli, listeria, salmonella. Pasteurization came about in the early 20th century, an effort to combat the multiple outbreaks of illness that arose from people drinking contaminated milk that derived from poorly unkempt farms.


These days, though, many smaller local farms are well kempt and held to high hygiene levels. Is there still the need for the pasteurization methods we created decades ago, Bill Marler?


The short answer is absolutely. And, you know, your mom was right to, you know, warm the milk to kill pathogens in it when you were a child. And, you know, half the states allow for the sale of unpasteurized milk. Half the states have chosen not to do that yet. And there’s battles going on every day about whether milk should be pasteurized at any given state.


The issue that you guys have been facing in the D.C. area is the sale of raw milk across state lines, which is illegal and has been since the late ’80s when public health officials sued the FDA to force the FDA to do exactly that, to ban the sale of raw milk across state lines. And, you know, that is the way things are today. You know, people should have the right to choose to drink raw milk, and they do that every day.


I mean, people can consume raw milk, and they do it in states where they can get it legally. And, you know, the issue, really, that, you know, Sally and I have is really one of how to produce, you know, raw milk safely. And the history just in the last couple of years of raw milk production hasn’t been that safe. And, you know, there have been multiple outbreaks linked to raw milk consumption at cow shares and in commercial dairies that produce raw milk.


So it is not, you know, a magic fluid that, you know, is safe all the time. It can be produced safe but always will have a risk because it’s unpasteurized.


How do you feel about pasteurization methods, Sally Fallon?…”

Read the transcript of the whole debate here.

Read the comments people posted following the show.



Filed under News

3 responses to “NPR raw milk debate: WAPF’s Sally Fallon versus food lawyer Bill Marler

  1. thebovine

    Excerpt from Bill Marler’s Food Safety News now added.

  2. nedlud

    Gumpert et al~

    On the E coli strain debate in which Ms. Fallon’s behavior puzzles you: Do know that the labs and the test methods are highly suspect and corrupt. When everything and everybody is subject to payoff and bribery, extortion and black mail, sloppiness and discourtesy and what I call ‘bearing false witness’, this trust in unworthy institutions, will continue to a puzzlement to everyone.

    If you think otherwise, that puzzlement can be overcome by so-called, ‘scrupulous scientific testing’, you’re obviously still a fool.

    But being a fool is not uncommon in a scientific dictatorship, it is a requirement.


    This debate is about inalienable rights and who the hell owns MY BODY.

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