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The Feds Are Having A Cow Over Raw Milk

 Do we ban sushi and steak tartare, too? What’s the difference?

 Sorry to disappoint, but the 2012 presidential election may prove to be anti-climatic, since it appears the federal government has solved all its problems, from illegal aliens to drug smuggling, from energy independence to protecting the environment.  They must have even found a way to eliminate the $14 trillion debt.

Why? Well, based on all the resources the feds are putting into the eradication of a mammoth problem, one that strikes fear in the heart of all citizens, it would seem that all its other troubles have been solved.   It’s an issue of such importance that pollsters surely find it at the top of every survey:

The production, sale and voluntary consumption of raw milk.

The threat is so great that armed federal officials find it necessary to routinely raid farms which produce that product. And rightly so, since the incidence of bovine malfeasance has obviously surpassed that of drug dealers, rapists, child predators, and murderers. 

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The latest saga involved armed federal who, after months of “investigation,” raided an Amish farm in Pennsylvania, whose owner was allegedly selling raw milk across state lines.  After assessing civil penalties, the government is now trying to shut down the farmer’s operation in federal court.

It’s another example of a government out of control, with gun-toting storm troopers swooping down on a farmer’s property.  And there’s little doubt it came about because the extremely powerful dairy lobby once again flexed its political muscle, demanding that this increasingly popular practice be squashed.  Given that there are over ten million raw milk drinkers in the U.S., why else would so much attention be given to such an innocuous business?

At issue is whether raw milk is dangerous for human consumption because of the potential presence of E. coli, salmonella and other bacteria, as opposed to the pasteurized milk that kills such germs and is common on store shelves.  Raw milk advocates, both producers and consumers, claim that milk in its raw, natural form, free of chemical treatment, helps the human body maintain an overall level of healthiness.  They state that during the pasteurization process, key proteins are destroyed that help promote digestion and improve the immune system.

Even though federal officials counter that the bacteria in raw milk can be deadly, people across the country go out of their way to obtain such milk, sometimes paying in excess of three times the price of regular milk. Not only have they lived to tell their story, but most claim they and their children are significantly healthier. In the past decade, only two deaths have been officially linked to raw milk, and even they were suspect, as the contaminated substance in question was Mexican cheese.

Given that raw milk is legal to sell in 29 states, and in the other 21, there are many legal loopholes to do so, such as labeling the milk for animal consumption, and selling “cow-shares” so that owners are entitled to a percentage of the cow’s yield as opposed to buying milk outright, such heavy handed conduct on the part of federal officials is troublesome.

Be Consistent

Here’s the rub.  If government is going to interfere in people’s lives and threaten their livelihoods, then they should be consistent.  It certainly wouldn’t make their decision right, but at least they would avoid the appearance of favoritism.  If the major issue in the consumption of raw food is the possibility of it containing “harmful” bacteria, then many more businesses should be concerned about being shut down by government agents.

Fair is fair.

So why aren’t the feds not closing all restaurants that serve sushi, or at least banning it from the menu?  Sushi, a delicacy loved by millions, is simply raw fish.  And the best sushi is categorized as being from the “highest grade” fish.

Sounds like class warfare in the pelagic community. 

The reality is that the “highest grade” fish is still served raw, and can contain both bacteria and parasites.  As an added bonus, the concentration of mercury in many of these fish is quite high because of their status as apex predators, meaning that, since they are at the top of the food chain, they often have the highest concentration of mercury.

Isn’t mercury bad for us, too? 

And what about the significant risk of contracting hepatitis from eating raw seafood?  It is a very real possibility, even when eating in a five-star restaurant.

While we’re at it, let’s ban steak tartare (made with raw beef) from all restaurants, as well as Caesar dressing concocted with raw eggs.

Come to think of it, the citrus and vegetable industries have problems too, given the occasional presence of E. coli on those products, due in part to manure laden irrigation water and fertilizer.

So let’s ban tomatoes, too. Oh wait, the FDA did exactly that several years ago after announcing a salmonella outbreak, throwing countless Americans out of work.  Only one problem.  There was absolutely no evidence that tomatoes were the offending food, and, after completely decimating an entire industry, the FDA (Federal Destruction Administration) cavalierly announced that it didn’t actually know what caused the outbreak.

If only the FDA was red-faced and apologetic after its misstep, willing to make amends, some of the animosity towards government would have been mitigated.  But it was as arrogant as ever.

The specter of bureaucrats who are 52 cards short of a deck yet hold the power to destroy Americans’ lives — with no repercussion when they are wrong — is simply un-American. And the fact that Congress and presidential administrations allow such intrusion to go unchecked simply makes the sin mortal. 

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Government clearly has more important priorities than trying to put raw milk producers out of business, especially when it operates in such a frightening manner.  If people want to drink raw milk for its perceived health benefits, they should be able to do so without fear, and without being forced to act like rumrunners during Prohibition.  And if government is so concerned about the safety of these individuals, it could make them sign a waiver of liability.

Of course, then we would be sifting through pages of litigious material every time we entered a restaurant, which would just thrill the bureaucrats.

Or maybe our taxpayer-funded government could actually try to hold up its part of the bargain by enforcing the laws that are designed to keep us safe and secure, but are routinely ignored. Spending no more than it takes in and sealing the border are just two that come to mind.

A wise man once wrote that Government should be “…of the people, by the people, for the people”. 

Well-funded lobbies controlling an ever-intrusive government is not what Mr. Lincoln had in mind.

           

 Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com

Readers of his column, “Freindly Fire,” hail from six continents, thirty countries and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick Morris’ recent bestseller “Catastrophe.”

Freind, whose column appears regularly in Philadelphia Magazine and nationally in Newsmax, also serves as a frequent guest commentator on talk radio and state/national television, most notably on FOX Philadelphia.  He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com

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June 1, 2011 at 2:02 pm Comments (0)