Friday, May 14, 2010

The Government Can Tell Us What To Eat?

I couldn't wait to post this, as I just found it too disturbing.  Please check out the article, Feds Tell Court They Can Decide What You Eat.  Yes, that's right.  Our government has officially taken the position that we citizens do not have the right to choose the food we put in our bodies! 

In a nutshell, the lawsuit in question is about the sale of raw dairy.  The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund claims that we have a "fundamental right to (our) own bodily and physical health".   As health is largely influenced by what foods we eat, this means we have a right to choose what we consume.  Seems logical enough. 

Our government, however, says, "no", we citizens do not have a "fundamental right" to obtain what food we choose.  The government cites safety concerns as the basis for this position.  In fact, there is legislation pending to allow the government to take even more control over the food and beverages we consume.  Thanks.  That's just what we need.  More government meddling.

S. 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010 is another lengthy, disasterous piece of legislation that sounds good (supposedly promotes food safety), but will ultimately have the opposite effect.  It is legislation that, yet again, seeks to undermine the small, independent farmer, while supporting the large, corporate, agri-businessness farms.  It is the mass-produced, giant farms that are putting our food supply at risk in the first place!  Further legislation regulating the small farmer isn't going to help make our food supply any safer.  It will only cause more family farms to suffer.  But, that is what the larger food producers what, so that's what our politicians give them.

In this specific case dealing with raw dairy, most of the general population in the US would be horrified to drink unpasturized milk.  When you take a step back and think about it, pasturization is a relatively new process when considering the entirety of human history, and our practice of drinking the milk of other mammals (cows, goats, sheep, etc.).  Somehow, we managed as a species to survive drinking raw milk. 

The purpose of pasturizing milk is to prevent pathogens developing in the milk and making us sick.  These pathogens thrive in the filthy, dirty, feces-infested conditions common to commercial cattle operations.  For most people with common sense (and a sense of decency to the animal), the answer would be to prevent the problem from existing in the first place.  CLEAN UP THESE COMMERCIAL DAIRIES!  Give the cows a healthy place to exist.  Cleanliness prevents disease.  But, these dairies are just so large that they don't want to pay for the labor that would be necessary to keep their facilities clean, and they simply don't care about the wellfare of their livestock.

Small dairy farms, on the other hand, have a much easier time maintaining the cleanliness of their facility.  They take pride in their operation, and both the animals and the product reflect this.  The only dairy licensed to sell raw dairy in Massachusetts is only a couple of towns away.  There is just no comparison in taste between raw and pasturized dairy.  They offer a superior product, from an inspected clean facility.  I feel much safer drinking this local raw milk than I do eating prepackaged foods that are increasingly being recalled for salmonella contamination from their factory-farm packaging and shipping methods.

The product is sold directly from the farm to consumer.  No middle men.  No shipping, warehousing, minimal packaging, etc.  This sounds like a good thing, right?  Less fuel and waste consumed in getting product to market is ecologically sound.  Everyone, including the government, is supposedly going green these days.  This seems like the perfect arrangement.  So, what's the problem?

A very important point to consider: the government loses a ton of money in taxes when farmers sell direct to consumers.  While there is no sales tax on food, there is tax on the fuel used to ship food, taxes on the income of the truck driver delivering the product, taxes on the energy used to pasturize and to keep the milk cold in storage, and so on.  Every time another hand gets involved, there's another tax. 

By cutting out the middle men, we also cut out income through taxation, and that's not good for the government.  This may not seem like a big deal, but when you consider the increasing number of people growing their own food these days to help stretch the budget a bit further, and the growing number of people who join the push for fresh, local foods every day, it adds up to a big deal.

This isn't just about raw dairy.  The more disturbing aspect is that the federal government is claiming that we do not have a right to chose what we put in our own bodies.  If this line of thinking is accepted and becomes legal precedent, we will then have a very dangerous situation.  The government could take it a step further and then argue that citizens have no right to grow our own fruits and veggies in our backyards.  Will this be used to confiscate, or (more likely) tax us, for each chicken or duck that we keep? 

This is simply too much power and control for our government to have.  We do not need more government meddling and power-grabbing.  If we want better, safer, more sustainable food, we need to encourage the local farmer- not stifle him or her.  I urge you to contact your representatives, and object to this proposed legislation.  But even more than that, I urge to plant something edible- even if it's a single basil plant in a window sill, more if you can.

Live better, a little every day.


  1. You hit the nail on some good points I was flashing to Food Inc and the farmers who harvested their chickens out in the open air and had less bacteria than the not so sterile factory places. Also tracing all the lost tax revenue are great points to remember in these debates.

  2. Thanks Poppy. I think everyone should see Food Inc at least once. The first time is a to shake people awake, and the second is to allow the info to sink in.

    I know people will say that the FDA is just trying to protect us. Raw dairy scares a lot of people who have never had anything other than pasturized dairy. And that's fine. They don't need to drink it. But for those that prefer it and can get it from a reliable source, it shouldn't be any of the FDA's business.

    Again, the big picture isn't about raw dairy. It's about our right to seek out the foods and beverages we choose to consume. To use the raw dairy situation to establish some governmental right to decide what we can eat is an outrageous abuse of power.

  3. I used to have to deal with the FDA directly in a previous job so I have absolutely no confidence in them.

    I can quite easily see the government trying to impose more regulations on farmers markets in the name of "safety". In my state it is illegal to sell raw milk so I'm now on the waiting list for a cow share.

  4. I'm certain we all knew that it's the big corporate dairy that are forcing the issue on raw milk. Here's a great link that shows that, at least in good old MA, that big dairy is working with the MDAR to stop raw milk:

  5. @Heathen Sherri- I hope you get the share. I keep a lemonade/iced tea pitcher- the kind that's filled up top and with a spiggot at the bottom, in the fridge. The cream floats to the top, which we skim off to put in my husband's coffee, and I get a low-fat milk that sinks to the bottom.

  6. @Penny- Great article. I know that there are buying clubs, but there's also another process raw dairies can go through is they want to do all the paperwork and submit to all the government red tape and inspections, and that is to obtain a license to sell raw dairy directly to the public. There is a licensed raw dairy in Dartmouth, MA, Paskamansket Farms. They have the milk and sometimes eggs in a refrigerator on their property. People come by on the honor system and leave their money in a container and take their milk and/or eggs.

  7. Here in Virginia it's illegal to sell raw milk, at all. You have to own the cow to have raw milk. One dairy an hour or two away has a cow-share program set up and as I understand it's doing well.