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David Gumpert's Posts

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FDA’s crackdown on raw-milk cheese based on flawed data analysis

Italy's celebrated Pecorino di Farindola, pictured here, is now and has always been made from raw milk. We can get this right, peopleHas there been a serious jump in illnesses from raw-milk cheese recently? You might think so if you've read recent major pieces in The New York Times and The Washington Post -- or the study put together by product liability law firm Marler Clark, which documented 54 illnesses attributed to raw milk cheese in 2010. The FDA is certainly concerned. It has been considering significantly tightening the rule that allows producers to sell unpasteurized cheeses to the public, …

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Raw-milk producers take the initiative on pathogen testing [UPDATED]

A week ago, Pennsylvania dairy farmer Edwin Shank did something no other producer of raw milk in recent memory has seen fit to do: he halted sales to his more than 1,800 customers, without any urging by local regulators. He made his decision based on private lab tests -- tests over and above those periodically conducted by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture -- that showed the presence of the pathogen campylobacter in one sample. While no one has reported illnesses to Shank or state authorities in the three weeks since the questionable milk went out into the marketplace, the owner …

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Weed is OK but raw milk is not, says one California county

Editor's note: David Gumpert is the author of The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America's Emerging Battle over Food Rights and somewhat of an advocate for unpasteurized milk, sales of which are legal in some states and not in others. It is not a black and white (as milk) issue; we recommend swallowing as many facts around the possible risks and rewards as possible, starting here.  Sign from a farm in Pennsylvania, where raw milk can be legally sold.Humboldt County in northern California has long been known as a mellow place, thanks in large measure to all the marijuana that's grown …

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Helpful raw-milk-drinking mom threatened with prosecution

Sign from a farm in Pennsylvania, where raw milk can be legally sold.For the last seven years, Rae Lynn Sandvig, a mother of four, has been helping a local dairy farmer, Michael Hartmann, distribute unpasteurized milk to 35 or 40 friends and neighbors in her suburban Minneapolis community of Bloomington. Every two weeks, the farmer pulls up in her home's driveway, one stop among half a dozen or so other homes in the metropolitan area that serve as distribution points, and hands out jars of raw milk to customers who've placed orders. Sometimes, Sandvig buys half a steer from the …

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The FDA's crackdown on small cheesemakers fails to turn up many bugs

Estrella Creamery's market table in happier times. Photo: LibrarymanTo many observers, including me, the Food and Drug Administration's recent pathogen-hunting campaign amongst artisanal and small cheese makers is evidence that it will not wield the new powers granted it to by the Food Safety Modernization Act neutrally, to inspect and regulate the largest sources of risk in the food system. (See Grist's Food Fight debate, in which I was a participant, for more.) It's gone looking for the most easily findable, albeit least commonly infectious pathogen around -- listeria monocytogenes. Its agenda seems to be building a compelling case for …

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Who took your cheese? Could be the FDA

Photo: fuxoftThe government going after raw milk was something a lot of people could comfortably ignore -- fringe-y kooks making a lot of noise about milk that could be dangerous. But start messing with people's $22-per-pound raw-milk Camembert ... well, now you're dealing with serious food for more mainstream foodies. Yet that's what may be happening. The five-year-old war on raw milk appears to be expanding to include a war on raw cheese. The American Cheese Society, with more than 1,200 members, mostly from the specialty cheese world, is warning its cheese producers to be on guard for a crackdown …

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Shutdown of two small cheesemakers raises more doubts about food-safety legislation

Editor's note: Are you confused about whether to support the Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510)? You're not alone. We've decided to ask the major players to debate its pros and cons for an upcoming Food Fight roundtable -- watch for it late next week. In all the acrimony that has settled over Washington, one major legislative matter has continued to receive bipartisan support: food safety legislation intended to give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration vastly expanded powers to reduce the amount of contaminated food getting into distribution. Highly publicized outbreaks over the last few years involving everything from …

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New study says raw milk not panacea for the lactose intolerant

For many years, raw-milk advocates have claimed that unpasteurized milk counters lactose intolerance -- the upset stomach many people feel after consuming dairy products. There have been loads of anecdotal claims, and an unpublished study of raw milk drinkers in Michigan in 2007 showed that more than 80 percent of 155 individuals who said they had been diagnosed with lactose intolerance could handle raw milk without problems. But opponents of raw milk, prime among them the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, have always been adamant that there's no difference between raw and pasteurized milk for individuals who are lactose intolerant. …

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Six things you should know before defying the real food police

*Other forms of unpasteurized milk distribution may also be allowed in any particular state. **There is no law either legalizing or prohibiting herd shares. State is aware herd share programs currently exist and has taken no action to try to stop them.Map courtesy of Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund Resistance has a glorified history in this country, beginning with the founding fathers, and extending to the labor and civil rights movements last century. We honor one of the resisters, Dr. Martin Luther King, with a national holiday. The ranks of food resisters are now expanding rapidly. Driven by increasingly …

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USDA wants us to 'know your farmer,' FDA wants us to stay home

No visitors allowed on chicken "farms" like these, says the FDA Customers of Country Hen, a central Massachusetts organic egg producer, found an upsetting announcement in their egg cartons recently: The farm tours that had been a tradition of the farm since it opened 22 years ago were being discontinued.  The reason? A new federal law that went into effect last month called the "Egg Safety Final Rule," or 74 FR 33030, which is designed to reduce the risk of a major form of contamination known as Salmonella enteritidis, or SE. The law requires farms with more than 3,000 hens …

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