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237: Food Terrorism & Sedition


KMO talks with Tara Holste and Liz Reitzig about the benefits and potential dangers of drinking fresh milk. A new package of legislation recently approved by the US Senate will, according to foodie advocates like Michael Pollan, give the FDA the authority they need to protect consumers from unscrupulous agribusiness and food processing corporations. Others see it as the next step in the on-going campaign to sabotage our health and autonomy and push people who want access to wholesome, local, farm products into the clutches of the industrial food behemoth.

Music by Mistle Thrush.


You can find the Club Orlov entry from which I read here:


Be sure to read the comments as well as the entry.



( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 24th, 2010 12:15 am (UTC)
The intensity of the FDA stance on raw milk is bizarre. Holste and Reitzig don't exaggerate the extremity of the FDA's position. From the FDA FAQ on the subject:

Raw milk is inherently dangerous and it should not be consumed by anyone at any time for any purpose. [emphasis mine]

But from the same FAQ:

In promulgating this regulation in 1987, FDA made a number of findings relative to raw milk, including that "raw milk, no matter how carefully produced, may be unsafe." [...]

Raw milk may contain many pathogens, including but not limited to [list omitted, but includes some nasty bugs]. Illnesses caused by these bacteria can be especially problematic for infants, young children, the elderly, and the immunocompromised.
[emphasis still mine]

So drinking raw milk may get you sick in a way that could be especially dangerous to the young, the old, and the immunocompromised (like riding the subway in winter) and there's no way to assure that it's 100% safe, no matter how it was prepared (like FDA-approved spinach, evidently).

Raw milk appears to be the only food product they describe on their site as "inherently dangerous" under normal conditions. (Also described using that phrase: Tobacco, in argument that the FDA shouldn't regulate it.) "Should not be consumed" is said of raw milk, some sketchy dietary supplements, raw juice (but only in the context of the young, old, or immunocompromised), alcohol (but only in some contexts), and animals too weak to stand/walk at time of slaughter. The phrase "should not be consumed by anyone" is only used by the FDA in the context of raw milk. The FDA also regulates blowfish (a toxic-if-improperly-prepared delicacy), there are a few briefs about import regulation and so on but no "should not be consumed by anyone for any reason". Evidently, "it's delicious" is a perfectly good reason for someone to eat something that if improperly prepared might well kill you, so long as it's been inspected properly on import and the consumer knows what they're getting into.

But I still don't get why the FDA position on raw milk is so intense. Here's my best guess:

In the FDA's view, the proponents of raw milk are anti-science hippies. The benefits of raw milk are imagined, the harms are ignored through ideological blindness. The consumer is misled about a dangerous (but relatively widely available) product with no benefits that, in addition to consuming it themselves, they might feed to their children.

Actually, now that I've said that, I can see why the FDA might have a hair-trigger about that sort of thing. Maybe if raw milk was marketed on the basis of "it's delicious and will probably kill you", it would just be a footnote for the FDA.

Exaggerating claims in defense of a policy can also be a vicious cycle. The stronger your claim, the more embarrassing it will be to admit error (or to have the sky not fall when the policy is overturned over your strenuous objection). The more embarrassing it will be to have a policy overturned, the more motivation you have to exaggerate your claims in defense of the policy. That may explain how the FDA got from "may be unsafe" to "inherently dangerous... should not be consumed by anyone at any time for any purpose".
Jordan Miller
Dec. 26th, 2010 05:54 pm (UTC)
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Check out this essay by Joel Salatin, and read his entire book of the same title, "Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal"

Or the abbreviated version: Bureaucrats don't know farming, small farmers do, and with the federal/state/local governments hurting for cash, they can't afford to round everyone up. Use up their resources by doing it anyway! You have a better chance of contracting E Coli from bagged spinach than from grandma's canned soups.

Check out this for places to find raw milk:

Visit our blog to post your ideas about Fresh Food!!
Dec. 28th, 2010 10:34 pm (UTC)
Not to be persnickety, but that band is Mistle Thrush.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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