William Winter, a veterinarian, livestock nutritionist, holistic herd health consultant and a chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF), is the latest to fall victim to the "food police," who raided his Minnesota-based private food club. Operating under the name of Uptown Locavore, residents subscribed to this buying club in order to secure a share of farm-fresh foods like raw milk and cheese and meat.
Minneapolis health inspectors, however, obtained a search warrant for the club and sealed all food-containing refrigerators and freezers, preventing Winter from dispensing the products. On his Facebook page, Winter — who has been targeted by health officials in the past — explained that the club's intention is to provide wholesome food to the people who want it — and it's fully legal.
"Nothing is for sale to the public … We are not a 'store.' This is fully legal in America. However, many of the ground-pounders and officials don't even know our own American, state, county and city laws. They can come down on us hard," he wrote.1 Health inspectors cited Winter for six violations related to selling unlicensed dairy products, meat, fish and other foods, in part because some of them lacked labelling.
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture also targeted Winter's natural food buying club in 2010, halting operations while it investigated the potential "food licensing" issues.2
Meanwhile, tainted foods from lettuce to chicken continue to sicken and kill Americans, yet get health agencies' golden seal of approval. This includes dairy produced at concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) — the bulk of the dairy products consumed in the U.S. — which have been implicated in a number of outbreaks in recent years.
The War Against Raw Milk and Farm-Fresh Foods Continues
Winter's is only the latest raw dairy club to be targeted — and potentially shut down — by authorities. According to A Campaign for Real Milk, a project of WAPF, "In Ontario, farmers may be fined $250,000 and sentenced to three years in jail [for selling or distributing raw milk] … Challenges to these laws are now underway. And in spite of onerous penalties, Michael and Dorothea Schmidt of Glencolton Farm provide milk to cow-shareholders in Toronto."3
Schmidt has been battling with the Canadian government for decades in order to provide safe raw milk to area residents. He has been harassed with threats, surveillance, intimidation and raids, even though no one has ever gotten sick from drinking the raw milk products he provides. Since it is illegal to sell raw milk in Canada, those who wanted to enjoy Schmidt's raw milk products formed the Glencolton farm share, in which each owned a piece of a cow and could therefore legally enjoy its milk.
The government eradicated this loophole, however, so the shareholders moved to own the farm instead of just the cow, by transforming into the ARC co-op. The government still intervened, however, forcing the members to "operate with caution" out of fear that they might be raided while trying to pick up a gallon of milk. Although members have tried to set up meetings with government officials to outline their concerns and reach an agreeable conclusion, the government has not been interested.4
Why are governments so intent on targeting small operators of food clubs delivering farm-fresh foods to local residents? As long as farmers are prevented from selling to consumers directly, processors can and do price fix the market, ultimately leading to the intentional destruction of small, family dairy farms and consolidation of CAFO dairy farms using taxpayer-funded subsidies.5
Which Foods Are Most Likely to Make You Sick?
Every year in the U.S., 48 million people get sick from foodborne illnesses, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die.6 Recent foodborne outbreaks in 2018 include salmonella found in eggs produced by Rose Acre Farms, one of the largest egg producers in the U.S., and E. coli in romaine lettuce grown in the Yuma, Arizona, region.
In recent years, we've seen additional outbreaks involving CAFO beef, flour, strawberries, frozen vegetables, packaged salads, pistachios and scallops, yet raw dairy products continue to be the acting scapegoats when it comes to foodborne illness. In reality, many foodborne illnesses are actually caused by CAFO meats and eggs, shellfish and pasteurized CAFO dairy.7
Poultry CAFOS are among the worst offenders when it comes to foodborne illness. Case in point, in April 2017, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a preliminary report stating that 8,547 cases of the more than 24,000 foodborne infections reported in 2016 were caused by campylobacter, bacteria that can cause diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps (compared to 8,172 caused by salmonella).8
The campylobacter problem on CAFO chicken is so bad that the U.K.'s Food Standards Agency (FDA) urged people to stop washing raw chicken in 2014, as doing so could increase your risk of coming into contact with campylobacter.9
Even the CDC warns against the practice, noting that raw chicken is often contaminated with campylobacter bacteria (and sometimes salmonella and clostridium perfringens bacteria), and states, "During washing, chicken juices can spread in the kitchen and contaminate other foods, utensils and countertops."10
Yet, there's no crackdown on poultry CAFOs, shutting them down and forcing them to clean up their acts. Also revealing, while campylobacter is the bacteria responsible for most cases of foodborne illness, leafy greens are actually the No. 1 source of food poisoning in the U.S, accounting for nearly half of all illnesses.11
Meanwhile, even in the absence of a complaint of contamination, farmers and consumers are often harassed over the buying and selling of raw milk. In contrast, Blue Bell Creamery — one of the largest ice cream makers in the U.S. whose ice cream sickened 10 people with listeria, three of whom died as a result, in 2015, was fined just $175,000 for the incident.12