Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund
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RAW deal

Farmers, natural food fans want government to keep its hands off ‘real’ milk.


A Article

Remember the ads? "Milk. It does a body good."

But what about raw milk?

Raw — unpasteurized — milk is safe and beneficial, say suppliers and their customers. And the government should keep it's nose out of their business transaction, they say.

But the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture says otherwise.

"Like any raw product, [raw milk] contains the potential to contain unhealthy bacteria," said department spokesman Chris Ryder.

The department requires those producing raw or pasteurized milk for sale to get a permit and submit to testing, Ryder said. It also forbids the sale of any other raw milk products except aged hard cheeses.

"Claims that raw milk is dangerous is based on 40-year-old science and would not hold up in a court of law," said Sally Fallon Morell, president of Weston A. Price Foundation, a nonprofit which promotes natural food through education.

"We now know that raw milk has numerous components in it that kill bad bacteria and strengthen immune systems," she said. "We know it from lots and lots of published studies."

Morell presented those studies and other evidence of raw milk safety in detail to at least 150 people at a raw milk seminar sponsored by the Pennsylvania Independent Consumers and Farmers Association at Cedar Crest High School, Lebanon, Saturday.

"I do want to say that even raw milk is not immune to carrying pathogens. ... but the point is that milk is not inherently dangerous and certainly not compared to other foods," Morell said.

Pathogens are everywhere, she said, including money, cookware and skin.

Around the county, consumers buy sweet corn and other produce from local farmers who don't need permits.

Likewise, farmers have a right to sell raw milk directly to their customers, said William Taylor Reil, vice president of the Pennsylvania Independent Consumers and Farmers Association, which sponsored the seminar.

"If you have a right to do something, do you ask somebody permission to exercise that right?" he asked.

"Now the state has criminalized it so they can regulate it, control it, and collect the revenue from it," he said.

Some dairy farmers already regulate themselves through Communities' Alliance for Responsible Eco-Farming (C.A.R.E.) launched three years ago.

C.A.R.E. board members inspect member farms and send samples to a state-approved laboratory each month, said a board member, a central Lancaster County dairy farmer who is Amish and asked to not be identified.

The organization's testing standards are higher than those of the Department of Agriculture, he said.

Although he holds a raw milk permit, he said, "If you get a permit, you basically waive your rights away."

The permit requirement and ban subvert the right to pursue happiness guaranteed in the state constitution, said Reil, who is also a member of C.A.R.E.

Farmers have a right to make a living, he said, and individuals have the right to choose their food without interference by government.

The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund was created by the Weston A. Price Foundation to support farmers and consumers who, like Reil, believe their rights have been violated.

The legal defense fund is assisting Levi Miller, who was cited in 2006 for selling raw milk from his Leacock Township farm without a permit.

Said Morell, "I don't think there's anywhere where there is more controversy between what the science is saying and what the government is saying."

Maureen Diaz, of Franklin Township, Adams County, buys raw milk for her family. She told the seminar audience, "In a land where we can go to a liquor store and consume potentially deadly alcoholic beverages, ... where we can go to the grocery store and consume potentially deadly beef, I think it's a crying shame and disgrace that I can't go to my local farmer and friend and buy what I want."

Jeannette Scott is a Sunday News staff writer. Contact her at [email protected] or at 291-8689.

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