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Farm Fresh Milk — Assuring Safety and Consumer Choice

Report of the April 15th Senate Hearing

April 18, 2008

California to Lead in Raw Milk Safety Program

Claravale Dairy and OPDC are pleased to report that Senator Dean Florez gave a command performance April 15th during a landmark, six hour hearing on the future of California raw milk. In spite of a two hour delay, several hundred raw milk consumers attended. Many stayed until after 11 PM to testify and hear the closing remarks.

The hearing was well organized and panels of witnesses were thoughtfully interviewed by Senators Florez and Vincent on all matters related to the CA raw milk issue.

Opening statements focused on creating a bright new future for California raw milk, establishing California as a national role model, and taking the leadership position on behalf of raw milk producers everywhere. Senator Florez set a high benchmark by pronouncing this work to be a foundation for raw milk safety worldwide.

Senator Florez strongly reprimanded the CDFA for refusing to participate in the hearings, calling their absence "a disrespectful affront to legislative oversight."

Consumer Testimony
Christine Chessen, a San Francisco mother of three and Columbia MBA,  said she loves raw milk because of the immune system changes she's observed in her children. Holding up a bag of FDA-approved children's cold medicines which now carry warnings due to death and brain injury, Ms Chessen said, "I think I know better than they do about my children's health and wellness."

Mike Schmidt traveled all the way from Ontario, Canada to share his story of 25 years in the Canadian system of criminalized raw milk production. He spoke powerfully about being denied the basic right to choose one's food by a "police state" bent on protecting the pasteurized milk industry.

Brian Dickman, an attorney from San Jose, spoke of his inability to drink pasteurized milk due to severe lactose intolerance. Just months ago he discovered raw milk, and is now able to enjoy it daily on his cereal. Brian shared his amazement about this discovery, and expressed his delight in reclaiming an all-American breakfast ritual after 20 years of deprivation.

Liz Reitzeg represented VICFA, a national movement to access raw milk. She traveled from back east to send a message of consumer and farmer unity on raw milk issues.

Dr. Dale Jacobson, DC, from Grass Valley shared his successes with treating patients with raw milk and fermented foods for 20 years.

Beverly Ramos spoke of her children and their health improvements while drinking raw milk.

University Panel
This panel included James Culler, DVM, UC Davis; Linda Harris, PhD, UC Davis; Mike Payne, PhD, UC Davis/WIFSS. The Department of Health Services (DHS) was represented by two people - their names were not available as of this writing.

Dr. Culler made a startling statement that Europe uses a less-than-100 coliform standard, measured from the bulk tank. He noted that this appeared to be a good standard, with no illnesses associated. He also said the total bacteria count standard for EU raw milk is less-than-100,000.

Dr. Culler's statements shocked informed listeners , especially the producers of raw milk, because these standards are easily achieved. It appeared the University was being reasonable, making statements based on good science verses the political objectives of the AB 1735 CDFA Raw Milk Ban.

However, at one point, Dr. Payne mentioned fatalities of 30 years ago attributed to raw milk. It was soon revealed that much of  Dr. Payne's testimony was based on CDFA attacks against Alta Dena Dairy, and were discounted long ago. Dr. Payne also stated erroneously that pathogens had been found in OPDC 's raw milk.

Senator Florez respectfully told Payne that the record must be correct, that we needed the facts, and "he could leave" if he did not respond faithfully to the directives of the committee.

In general, the University panel was uninformed about raw milk for human consumption (they had never visited either Claravale or Organic Pastures Dairies), and were thus unable to comment fully on the real issues. The panel's overall position was that a HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) program would be preferable to a coliform test standard. On behalf of the University, the panel committed to support the efforts to create a HACCP plan for California raw milk.

Raw Milk Experts
This expert panel included Ted Beals, MD/pathologist-Michigan; Robert Irons, PhD, Microbiology-Kansas; Dr. Ron Hull, Microbiologist-Australia; and Sally Fallon, author of Nourishing Traditions. Cat Berge, DVM; Joseph Hechmanm PhD-Rutgers; and Dr. Tim Chapman were not able to attend, but all submitted compelling written testimony. Dr. Aajonus Vanderplantiz surprised us all by appearing at the last minute and convincing the senators to allow him to testify.

This panel clearly showed the science and data indicating a clear distinction between raw milk for drinking and raw milk for pasteurization. They made a rock solid case against the CDFA's position, stating that less-than-10 coliforms was a meaningless measurement and may even be detrimental to raw milk safety. They pointed out that Alta Dena used the less-than-10 standard, yet often showed pathogens in their milk samples, whereas OPDC and Claravale have never found pathogens.

The panel showed unanimous support for a HACCP plan.

Extensive documentation was submitted as testimony. This is now part of legislative record and serves as the basis for new laws. Because CDFA and the FDA were not present, their comments and potential rebuttal will be conspicuously absent. Our arguments will stand alone and guide future raw milk voting positions in the legislature.  

The Producers
The producer panel was seated by Mark McAfee, Founder OPDC, and Collette Cassidy of Claravale. Ron Garthwaite of Claravale was unable to attend. McAfee and Cassidy covered full range of subjects including
CDFA's questionable tactics, and achieving a relevant and visionary raw milk standard for California.

The Retailers
This last panel included two Wholefoods managers, Jenny from Rainbow Coop in South SF, Patty Glaviano of the Real Milk Club, and Ryan and Dale Cowan of Elliots Natural Foods. Several of the panelists could not stay until the end but nonetheless should be commended for staying and participating as much as they could. Jenny was profound in her comments about how
raw milk consumers are so very passionate and highly informed about their food choices; about how they become upset if the shelves are empty; how they wait for the delivery truck to arrive to get the best and the freshest raw milk possible, and always nearly fight over the raw butter; how they can get really mad when their supply is gone for weeks at a time!

Wrapping Up
As the clock approached midnight Senator Florez made closing comments, saying how much he appreciated the attendance of consumers who had traveled from near and far to speak. He stressed that California is a leader, and the choices we make will have a profound effect on the future of raw milk around the world. Closing comments were grounded in a promise for a better future for raw milk, and the inclusion of HACCP as the guiding food safety system. Senator Florez asked the raw milk expert panel to help the producers create a workable HACCP, and said he would work to pass it into new law.

A Word About HACCP
OPDC has taken the position that HACCP will be very good for the future of raw milk if it has solid controls established by producers and audited by a third party. A HACCP program handed down by CDFA would be nothing more than an invitation to a very expensive and useless paper chase.

In 1997, OPDC founder Mark McAfee was the first farmer to become certified at Chapman University in HACCP program development. In 1998 he was selected as a “Best of the West Grower†by Fruit Grower magazine in recognition of his first ever field HACCP program developed for apples. This HACCP program grew out of the Odwalla E-coli incident, when McAfee Apple Gardens assisted with Odwalla's recovery from the crisis. In fact University Panel expert, Dr. Linda Harris and Dr. Jeff Farrar of the CA DHS both visited and reviewed the HACCP programs in 1998 and they may now be part of reviewing a future raw milk HACCP program. A draft California Farm Fresh Milk HACCP proposal is being developed by the Raw Milk Expert Panel and will be submitted for initial review in the next few days.

The hearing was a huge success for consumers, retailers and producers. Our compliments to Senator Dean Florez for his leadership, grace, humanity, and vision for a better future; we thank him for progressively leading California to the best and safest raw milk in the world.

Yours in health,

Mark McAfee, Founder, OPDC

Senator Florez said, "First we will do raw milk HACCP and then we will make the dairy industry do it for pasteurized milk." This received a big round of laughter and applause. Everyone knows that big dairy would never do this, so it was kind of a joke. They never test for pathogens before or after pasteurization and rely solely upon the single "kill step" of pasteurization. The tragic reality is that this step is now failing, causing the deaths of three in Massachusetts and thousands of other illnesses in the last few years. The bugs are evolving, but pasteurization has not.