Organic Consumers Association

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Raw Milk Fight Is on From Amish Farms to Co-ops

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Healthy Raw Milk: It's Our Right page.
WASHINGTON - One sun-drenched August morning, armed officers wearing sunglasses and bullet-proof vests descended on a market in Venice, Calif., searching for illegally sold goods. It marked the end of a year-long investigation where undercover agents posed as customers.

Their target: raw, unpasteurized milk.

Federal regulators say it's a dangerous and unnecessary public threat, pointing to 143 cases of contamination linked to still births, miscarriages and kidney failure since 1987, the latest involving five California children. Grassroots, back-to-nature consumers say the product strengthens the immune system by keeping intact good bacteria that's killed in pasteurized milk. The choice should be theirs, the activists say.

"These guns are being drawn on basically aging hippies, all because of illegal milk," said Ajna Sharma-Wilson, a Los Angeles lawyer for the Venice market owner, in an interview. "This is a waste of taxpayer money."

The Aug. 3 crackdown on the Venice market has become a cause célèbre for a growing raw-milk movement that touts the product's ability to strengthen the immune system and contends the federal enforcement is overzealous. Proponents are part of a broader raw-foods movement that touts unprocessed and organic products as a healthier alternative and advocates direct sales from local, sustainable farms to consumers.

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