A police raid on a members-only grocery has devotees of unpasteurized dairy up in arms. In surveillance footage posted by the Los Angeles Times, four officers, with guns drawn, snaked through the aisles of Venice, California’s Rawsome Foods in search of outlaw raw cow and goat milk – which they found and confiscated.
In addition to the club’s computers, yogurt, cartons and jugs of milk and blocks of goat cheese were among the unpasteurized edibles nabbed by federal, state and local authorities who cited the co-op’s lack of proper permits to sell food to the public, while one of its vendors, Healthy Family Farms was also raided, having not met sufficient licensing standards in its processing plant.
The June 30 raid is just the latest in the ongoing clash between raw food crusaders and governmental regulators seeking to shield consumers from what they see as a major threat to public health. Unpasteurized dairy has been linked to recent outbreaks of potentially deadly campylobacteriosis in the Midwest an E. coli outbreak in Minnetsota and both of the ailments in Colorado after children and adults alike were sickened after consuming raw milk. Raw milk has also been tied to cases of Listeria monocytogenes, and Salmonella.
Pasteurization, a process that entails heating milk to 145F for 30 minutes or 163F degrees for 15 seconds, and ultra high temperature pasteurization, which sterilizes milk to a shelf-stable state with a one or two second stint at 285F both kill the bacteria that cause these ailments, but, activists say, at significant cost to flavor, health benefits and personal freedom.
Milk sales are highly regulated from state to state - so stringently in some areas of the country, that the acquisition of raw milk sometimes becomes a clandestine, us-against-them affair. Urban consumers band together in secretive societies to smuggle and distribute contraband dairy to like-minded lactivists who eschew governmental warnings and claim that unpasteurized dairy cures asthma, allergies, thyroid deficiencies and even cancer. Others just enjoy the creamy, full-bodied flavor and mouthfeel and still others - well, they just don’t care for the government telling them what they can and cannot put in their bodies.
Not all raw dairy dealing is so cloak and dagger. Organizations like Right To Choose Healthy Food and the Farm to Consumer Foundation as well as activists like filmmaker Max Kane have taken the battle public, raising awareness of raw milk's supposed benefits via informational websites and films, as well as public rallies and drink-ins. Dubbed the "Teat Party" by some, the champions of this less fettered dairy distribution seek to overhaul state raw milk laws, one jug at a time.
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