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News for August 10, 2010

How to Pick a Safe Raw Dairy

Despite what you often hear within the raw milk community, raw milk can make you sick if you are not careful in picking who you deal with. I hosted a raw milk conference in Ohio with 70 attendees. I taught the health benefits of raw milk for an hour while I was on the tail end of a three week illness from a load of campylobacter bacteria. It was the worst and longest bout of diarrhea I ever had. It was from raw milk from an unclean milk producer. I wanted to believe it was from our laying hens and eggs, but it was not. Needless to say, we mooved on over to a very clean dairy. But I asked the other dairy if he had one of those horse diapers so I could remain confident during the meeting.

Still being sick from bad milk, it was an embarrassing situation teaching its health benefits in front of everyone (I told no one, of course) but it made a life­long impression on me of why it is so important to understand HOW to pick a raw dairy. No one has a story like this one so I am most qualified to teach it more (since I have the experience). With the growth of the moovement, there will be more outbreaks since people, like me at one time, generally do not know how to evaluate a dairy.

READ MORE (Journal of Living Food & Health) ]

You Can Get Sick from Raw Milk...But Why the Political Merry-Go-Round?

It's been quite a few years since I've gotten sick from bad food. I have vague memories of the times it's happened, the memories being primarily around the after-taste of the bad food for the three or four days I was sick--some bad tomatoes one time, some bad shrimp another time. I usually had some idea where the tainted food came from, the restaurant or the party at which I'd eaten the bad stuff.

One time it happened to me, along with several other parents, after visiting day at my children's overnight camp. Some bad chicken served at lunch. I felt worst for the camp's owners, since that was a hell of a way to have visiting day turn out. And because none of the children had gotten sick over several years, I could realistically assume it was a one-time problem. It never occurred to me in any of these situations to try to "do" something about the problem, like take legal action.

READ MORE (The Complete Patient) ]

A Tale of Two Dairy Farms (One of Which Milks 30,000 Cows)

I have visited two dairy farms in the last couple of weeks. One belongs to Henry, my neighbor here in Vermont. I stopped by his place to pick up a dozen bales of mulch hay to spread on my garden, and he invited me into the barn to meet Ernie, a three-week-old bull calf he seemed particularly proud of. Ernie came trotting up to us with the rambunctious glee of an oversized Labrador pup. It was almost as if the calf knew his privileged destiny was a life of grazing on green, hilly pastures occasionally performing the duties required of a ladies’ man.

With part-time help from his wife and a hired hand, Henry milks about 65 cows, black and white Holsteins and fawn-colored Jerseys, along with mottled crossbreeds of the two. With milk prices low, Henry has been barely scraping by for the last few years. As we say in New England, he survives not so much on how much money he makes, but on how much he doesn’t spend. Henry’s weathered, gray barns are decades past needing a coat of stain, and his rusting collection of tractors, wagons, mowers, and bailers is fast approaching antique status, kept functional only because in a previous life, Henry was a farm equipment mechanic. Despite such disadvantages (or maybe because of them), Henry’s milk is consistently rated as top-quality, and he gets a premium price for it.

READ MORE (Politics of the Plate) ]

3 Ways Small Farmers Are Feeding the Hungry

In honor of National Farmers Market Week, I'd like to celebrate the farmers who feed not only those of us who have the luxury of showing up at the markets each week, but also those who lack resources with which to do so. While both CSAs and farmers' markets are sprouting up all over the country, a less-public but equally important movement is happening alongside this increased availability of local produce. Despite their own struggles to stay afloat financially, farmers, gardeners, and other food growers nationwide are finding ways to bring homegrown, garden-fresh goodies to the hungriest among us. Here's a rundown of the who, what, where, and how our friends in the fields are helping America's hungry.


Foraging restaurant and suppliers adapt to new rules

Forage gleans a new strategy: When Forage restaurant opened in Los Angeles's Silver Lake neighborhood, they used produce from customers' backyards to supplement their normal produce purchases, paying for the backyard produce with food or drink from the restaurant and often noting the donor's name on the menu ("Judy's lemonade", "Jim's tangerine sorbet"). It worked great for a while -- with one Sunday seeing 300 pounds of produce arrive -- but before long the county health department took notice and informed Forage that 'unapproved sources' like backyard produce were not acceptable. This knocked out Forage's informal sourcing policy, but there is a silver lining to this Silver Lake tale. A state program administered by the Los Angeles County agricultural commission allows home growers to get a Certified Producer's Certificate by paying a small fee and undergoing an inspection (this is the process followed by sellers at certified farmers markets). Five contributors have gone through the process already and five more are expected soon. While going through the licensing process, one of the growers has realized that because he and his wife can grow exotic produce that is unavailable from other suppliers and highly desired by restaurants, their backyard might become a serious source of income. For example, they might start growing loroco, a flower used as a flavoring element in pupusas and currently only available frozen, for a neighborhood Salvadoran restaurant.

READ MORE (The Ethicurean) ]

Is a Child's Lemonade Stand a Public Health Threat?

Seven-year-old Julie Murphy recently started her first business venture — a lemonade stand at Portland, Oregon's monthly art fair, "Last Thursday." Murphy and her mother, Maria Fife, prepped early, purchasing bottled water, cups, ice, and lemon-flavored Kool-Aid mix. Within the first half-hour, customer response was overwhelming. Drawn in by Murphy's homemade, orange sign advertising "yummy" lemonade, patrons lined up to purchase a cup from the smiling little girl. That is, until county health department officials swooped in and shut the stand down.

Officials demanded to see Murphy's and Fife's vendors' license. When the mother-daughter duo said they didn't have one, officials told them to stop selling their lemonade, threatening to slap the pair with a citation and a $500 fine. "We are statutorially responsible for the public health, including regulating food vendors," Jessica Guernsey, the health department's program manager, told AOL Health. "This was treated like any other vendor at that particular event." Guernsey also noted that these art fairs have a tendency to get "unruly," so it's important for officials to keep a watchful eye. I can't say I blame Guernsey—we all now how rowdy things can get when folks get all hopped up on those 50-cent cups of lemonade sold by adorable seven-year-olds.


Homemade foods for sale? 2 bills to OK it today

Do you get raving reviews from teachers and other parents about that homemade cake you provided for the school bake sale?

Are family and friends who have tasted your raspberry jam always asking when you are going to make some more?

READ MORE (Free Press) ]

The Dark Side of Vitaminwater

Now here's something you wouldn't expect. Coca-Cola is being sued by a non-profit public interest group, on the grounds that the company's vitaminwater products make unwarranted health claims. No surprise there. But how do you think the company is defending itself?

In a staggering feat of twisted logic, lawyers for Coca-Cola are defending the lawsuit by asserting that "no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking vitaminwater was a healthy beverage."

READ MORE (Huffington Post) ]

Raids are Increasing on Farms and Private Food-Supply Clubs

Government raids of producers, distributors, and even consumers of nutritionally dense foods appear to be happening more frequently.

Sometimes they are meant to counter raw dairy production, other times to challenge private food organizations over whether they should be licensed as food retailers.

READ MORE (Mercola) ]

Canola gone wild! Uh-oh, transgenic plants are escaping and interbreeding

One of the primary concerns with transgenic (aka genetically modified) crops is the risk of genetic contamination, i.e. the transfer of engineered genes to wild versions of the same plant. The corporations involved in genetic engineering, such as Monsanto and Bayer CropScience, have time and again assured regulators and the public that this risk is minimal. Still, the government mandates "buffer zones" around such crops' plantings and the corporations who sell the seeds have created their own protocols to ensure this kind of thing never happens.

Well, surprise! It's happened. Big time.

READ MORE (Grist) ]

Raw Milk Policy working group tackles issue of can milk, tuberculosis testing

Members of the Raw Milk Policy working group continued to build guidelines that may make it possible for farmers to sell raw milk legally in Wisconsin. At their recent meeting on July 29, the group talked about whether or not to include farms where the milk is stored in cans.

Dick Barrows, who chairs the group, asked if can milk must be excluded as “intrinsically not as safe,” asking his members if that was a subject they had already moved beyond.

READ MORE (Wisconsin State Farmer) ]

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