Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Leftover LA Post - Rawesome Raided (But Not Cargill)

We've been back in Anchorage almost a week now, but I still have some leftover LA material that seems worth sharing.  For example. . .

We were headed down Rose to the beach the one day, when we saw this sign:

There had to be an interesting story here.  I remembered something about them being closed once before when we were in LA.    Here's some background information from The Food Renegade:
On the heels of the recent news about raw milk’s safety comes an alarmingly disturbing coordinated multi-agency raid on Rawesome Foods — a raw food buying co-op in Los Angeles. This morning’s SWAT-style raid was coordinated at both Rawesome Foods and Healthy Family Farms and has led to three arrests so far, the confiscation of personal computer equipment and raw milk cheeses, and the dumping of more than $10,000 worth of raw milk down the drain.
According to early reports from people on the scene, James Stewart (owner of Rawesome Foods), Sharon Palmer (of Healthy Family Farms), and Victoria Bloch (local L.A. co-chapter leader for the Weston A. Price foundation) have all been arrested on charges of conspiracy to sell unpasteurized milk products.
The raid was carried out by gun carrying officers of the LA County Sheriff’s Office, the FDA, the Dept. of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control.
They have a short video too.

I don't know enough about this.   I know people can get sick from unpasteurized milk, but there are also ways to handle the milk to prevent this.  This is one of those dilemmas - if a lot of people got sick from Rawesome products, the government would be blamed for not checking them carefully.  But then, how long has Rawesome been selling raw milk and how many people have gotten sick?  How sick? 

Here's a little more clarification from a New York Times article:
. . . And then, on Thursday, James Stewart, the proprietor, was arraigned on charges of illegally making, improperly labeling and illegally selling raw milk products, as well as other charges related to Rawesome’s operations. Two farmers who work with Rawesome were also named in the district attorney’s complaint.
Though it is legal to sell unpasteurized milk products in California, Rawesome, which has operated in Venice for more than six years, never obtained a license to do so — or, indeed, any type of business license.
Lela Buttery, a trustee at Rawesome, said it had no license because it was not a store. Instead, she called it a “club.” Club members paid an annual fee, which allowed them to peruse the produce, milk products and honey on Rawesome’s shelves, which they paid for — $7 for a pint of raw goat’s milk — to cover the cost of production. Members also signed waivers to signal they understood the risks of consuming raw food.
Rawesome is staffed by volunteers, who take home food for their efforts, and no one, Ms. Buttery said, is making money from his or her work there. . .
. . . Siobhan DeLancey, a spokeswoman for the federal Food and Drug Administration, which participated in the investigation of Rawesome, said the administration banned the interstate sale of raw milk products because they could be dangerous for those with compromised immune systems.
“Our biggest concern is really with children, because pathogens that can be in raw milk can be extremely dangerous for the classically at-risk,” she said. “We’ve seen people wind up as paraplegics.”
But raw food enthusiasts are convinced of raw milk’s healthfulness — and still have plenty of options around here.
“I drink it all the time,” said Laura Avery, who runs a farmers’ market in Santa Monica where raw milk products are sold. “I believe it’s a safer product.” 

The Washington Post Communities section posted a long piece as well.  So, we have the left and the right on this one.  

The Atlantic has an article that points out that while Rawesome was raided and its owner and two others taken to jail with an initial bail set at $121,000, food conglomerate Cargill was deciding how to voluntarily recall turkey contaminated with salmonella.
Despite a lack of victims, Rawesome stands accused. And while Cargill has no shortage of victims, nobody at the company has been charged with a crime over the turkey recall. The government has fewer options against multinational corporations than it does against neighborhood food co-ops. USDA oversees the safety of meat products but can only encourage "voluntary recalls" of products that have been infected with antibiotic-resistant pathogens, reports Tom Philpott of Mother Jones. The final decision to recall was left to the company, which inevitably considered the bottom line as well as public safety when making its decision.

While Cargill self-polices, the Rawesome club has been under more intense scrutiny than members even realized. "Since the raid it's come out that we've been under investigation since June 30 of last year," Buttery says. "They've been monitoring us from unmarked vehicles; they have agents who have become members."

That moves us from the protecting the public narrative to the large food conglomerates vs. small natural food supporters.   This seemed to have been a theme of the natural food folks in the debate over what was called the Food Safety Modernization Act. 

1 comment:

  1. I follow this issue off and on but there is one thing that is for sure...the small guy gets much more intense action than the larger corps.
    Most Americans have gotten so far removed from the sources of their foods, and understand so little it does not amaze me that most don't realize how scary this whole set of actions is.


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