I love a lawsuit……  The AP reported yesterday, “Dairies sue to stop enforcement of raw milk standard."  This one will be fun to watch.  The raw milk folks (who sell their product for $10.00 per gallon – pasteurized milk sells for about $4.00) better watch what they are stepping into.  You really have to wonder if charging $6.00 more a gallon has anything to with the lawsuit?  Or, is it really true that these multi-million dollar companies really care about raw milk for some other reason?  See YouTube interview of Organic Pastures owner.

For those of us that believe in the civil justice system, I expect "Raw Milk on Trial" to uncover the truth.  As the AP reported:

Claravale Farm, of Paicines, and Organic Pastures of Fresno that produce unpasteurized milk are suing to stop the state from enforcing strict new standards. The dairies hope to stop a law that would require raw milk to meet the same bacterial standards as pasteurized milk starting January 1. They say it’s not technically possible to meet those standards and keep milk raw. Agriculture department officials haven’t seen the suit. But they say raw milk producers in other states with similar standards have been able to comply.

We are also investigating a Fall 2006 E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that has implicated one of the plaintiffs in the recent lawsuit, Organic Pastures.  

Many of these families whose kids were sickened in these outbreaks thought they were doing something healthful (one of the children unknowingly drank raw milk at a friend’s house), but the products (colostrum or raw milk) were reported  to contain a fecal pathogen (E. coli O157:H7) that nearly took the kids’ lives.

I actually spoke on the topic of “Issues Regarding Raw Milk Sales and Consumption” at the IAFP conference in 2006, and recently one of my law partners wrote “A Legal History of Raw Milk in the United States” published in The Journal of Environmental Health.  One thing milk producers (raw or pasteurized) need to remember, what they produce is a product, and if that product contains a deadly pathogen and it sickens or kills someone, you have no defenses and you will get sued.

Cheryl Clark of the San Diego Union-Tribune interviewed the owner of Organic Pastures, the largest supplier of organic raw milk in California, with $6 million in annual sales, for her story E. coli suspected from Fresno dairy” on September 23, 2006:

Mark McAfee, owner of Organic Pastures, insisted during a phone interview yesterday that he does not believe his dairy farm produced contaminated products. “They don’t know what it is,” he said, referring to the state officials. He added that he was told some of the children also ate poorly cooked hamburger or spinach and could have ingested the bacteria that way. “The state has told us this is a precautionary recall,” McAfee said. “They have to shoot first and ask questions later, and you can’t blame the guys. And although we test our milk like nobody tests it for every pathogen, (the raw milk products industry has) a long history of people becoming sick.”

 Organic Pastures was glowingly profiled in 2003 in www.newfarm.org

The milk is a perfect metaphor: by keeping it raw, Mark encourages the beneficial bacteria that keep pathogens in check. Each batch of milk is tested for bad guys like salmonella and E. coli, and not once have they been found. He has even had researchers introduce such bacteria to test samples, and the pathogens have been unable to reproduce. In conventional milk they would be the dominant organisms and proliferate, but in the varied ecosystem within Mark’s milk, the competition stifles them.

I guess the metaphor is not always apt.  As part of our research into the sale and consumption of raw milk, I hope to do several posts in the next few months – stay tuned.  The folks at Barfblog have already done quite a bit of research already.  Originally, the last photo was of a nice picture of Organic Pastures milk.  However, the photo caught the ire of my friends at www.ethicurean.com.  I did find another photo.