With no warning one weekday morning, investigators entered an organic grocery with a search warrant and ordered the hemp-clad workers to put down their buckets of mashed coconut cream and to step away from the nuts.
Then, guns drawn, four officers fanned out across Rawesome Foods in Venice. Skirting past the arugula and peering under crates of zucchini, they found the raid's target inside a walk-in refrigerator: unmarked jugs of raw milk.
"I still can't believe they took our yogurt," said Rawesome volunteer Sea J. Jones, a few days after the raid. "There's a medical marijuana shop a couple miles away, and they're raiding us because we're selling raw dairy products?"
Cartons of raw goat and cow milk and blocks of unpasteurized goat cheese were among the groceries seized in the June 30 raid by federal, state and local authorities — the latest salvo in the heated food fight over what people can put in their mouths.
On one side are government regulators, who say they are enforcing rules designed to protect consumers from unsafe foods and to provide a level playing field for producers. On the other side are "healthy food" consumers — a faction of foodies who challenge government science and seek food in its most pure form.
They want almonds cracked fresh from the shell, not those run through a federally mandated pasteurization process that uses either heat or a chemical to kill off salmonella and other possible contaminants. They hunger for meat slaughtered on the farm. And they're willing to pay a premium — $6, $8 or more — for a gallon of milk straight from the cow.
So despite research outlining the dangers of consuming raw milk and other unprocessed foods, they're finding ways to circumnavigate federal, state and local laws that seek to control what they can serve at the dinner table. Such defiance, they said, comes from growing distrust of a food sector that has become more industrialized and consolidated — and whose products have been at the root of some of the country's deadliest food contamination cases.
"This is about control and profit, not our health," said Aajonus Vonderplanitz, co-founder of Rawesome Foods. "How can we not have the freedom to choose what we eat?"
Scientists and regulators point to epidemiological evidence linking disease outbreaks to raw milk: The milk can transmit bacteria such as E. coli O157:H7, salmonella, campylobacter and listeria, which can result in diarrhea, kidney failure or death.
"This is not about restricting the public's rights," said Nicole Neeser, program manager for dairy, meat and poultry inspection at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. "This is about making sure people are safe."
Monday, July 26, 2010
Cops raid raw-food grocery store, guns drawn against raw milk.
From LA Times: