I’ve written about the safety of raw milk before in my Infoletter – Good Health Is Real Wealth, however, this issue came up again when I received an email from reader who read a blog post about Organic Pastures Dairy being sued over an E. coli 0157:H7 outbreak in 2006. The blog post was written by William D. Marler, the lawyer who brought the litigation against Organic Pastures.
Since I had never heard of this particular lawsuit, I started doing some research. I got in contact with Bill Marler himself, Sally Fallon (head of the Weston A. Price Organization and realmilk.com) and the CEO of Organic Pastures Dairy – Mark McAfee. What emerged was probably a representational picture of the raw milk issue in North America.
On the one side of debate, we have raw milk supporters (of which I’m one) saying that raw milk is a healthy superfood and the risk of infection, although present, is much lower than that of pasteurized milk. Indeed, there have been far more E. coli 0157:H7 outbreaks from pasteurized dairy products, than raw dairy.
On the other side of the issue, we have some powerful players who are resolutely opposed to the legalization of raw milk and who use the FDA and other regulatory bodies to harass and raid small raw milk farmers – sometimes with FBI officers with machine guns (believe it or not!) storming their farms. Why?
I suspect it has to do with money. If the mass public started demanding raw milk, the current large factory-farm dairy suppliers would be in a real fix. How could they possibly get their diseased, antibiotic-laced, hormone-enhanced cows to produce healthy milk? They would lose a LOT of money and many would simply go bankrupt. These are pretty strong motivators to maintain the status quo.
In addition, as raw milk gains acceptance and usage increases, who is losing customers? Who is making less money? Again, it’s the large agribusiness dairy corporation.
Then we have Bill Marler (officially, William D. Marler) – a lawyer who specializes in foodborne illness litigation, who is blogging and publishing rather avidly against raw milk. What are his motivators? Is he an FDA-pawn (as some have accused), or is he primarily motivated by the desire to make money from a contentious issue? Or, has he been very negatively affected by his raw milk litigation cases, feeling that someone has to trumpet the dangers?
I had a lot of emails back and forth with Bill, with him sending me documents from the local State and CDC investigations of the Organic Pastures incident in 2006. But I don’t want to get into debating all that here – for one side of the argument, you can go to Bill Marler’s site and download the documents yourself. For the other side of the argument, go to www.realmilk.com (Sally Fallon’s site) and scroll down the homepage – there you can download their rebuttal for each of Marler’s assertions.
For those of you that want the short-version summary of the case: Bill Marler says he built a really strong case against Organic Pastures (OP) and the grocery stores that sold the milk, using data from the State of California investigation and the CDC. He says they sat down with OP, the grocery stores and all the insurance companies and a settlement was reached, so the case never went to court. He is legally prohibited from giving details of the settlement.
Mark McAfee (Organic Pasture’s founder and CEO) says that yes, they all sat down together, however OP refused to settle and their evidence was strong enough that they were happy to go to court. But, the insurance companies didn’t want to go to court and insisted on a settlement instead. The upside was that OP’s insurance company renewed their policy for the next ye