The fight for real milk is not overGood news — AB 1604, which impacts the ability of dairies to sell raw milk in California, passed unanimously in the California Agriculture Committee on January 16, 2008.

AB 1604 is a new proposed milk bill that is a compromise to the overly-strict AB 1735, which essentially would have put raw organic milk companies out of business in California by requiring a cap of 10 coliform bacteria [definition] per milliliter. Thing is, that’s not natural. AB 1604 is a compromise proposing a 50 coliform per milliliter cap.

Mark McAfee, owner of Organic Pastures, feels this is doable:

AB 1604 is a deal we can all live with
Ideally, AB 1735 should have been reversed so as to eliminate the baseless raw milk coliform standard it included. However, the political reality of the moment said otherwise. Allies to the anti- raw milk forces were deeply imbedded in the hearing committee. The mainstream dairy industry and the California Medical Association also stood against AB 1604. Without last minute negotiations to modify AB 1604, it would have "died in committee" and AB 1735 would be the law of the land. Raw milk availability would have become subject to the uncertainties of litigation, and this was a risk for raw milk consumers that we were unwilling to take.

[For Mark McAfee’s full statement: Assembly Agriculture Committee Passes AB 1604 with a unanimous vote!]

That’s good to hear.

This new bill, championed by Assembly members Nicole Parra, Tom Berryhill and Mike Villines, will now go through the democratic process and be voted on in Sacramento, our state Capitol.

I emphasize the word democratic because AB 1735 not only effectively put raw organic milk production out of business, but was rushed through without notice and presented to one and all as a fait accompli — a done deal. It effectively meant that raw milk dairies would have had to pasteurize their milk to get the coliform count down to that range. Of course, when you cook the milk, it loses a great deal of its nutritional value. But, hey, that coliform count is down! And the shelf life is UP, UP, UP.

Since AB 1735 was touted as a way to help protect the public from "foodborn illness" and E. coli, we should note that:

  1. all coliforms are not bad, and
  2. the AB 1735 coliform cap cannot guarantee that milk is free of pathogens, because it does not require testing for pathogens.

So, we were saddled with a bill that did not require any direct test for pathogens but, in order to continually meet the coliform cap, would require pasteurization — like all the "regular" milk in California. See where that’s going?

Note that the California Department of Food and Agriculture were not saying that raw organic milk is banned. Rather, raw organic milk was given an impossible coliform standard to meet in order to qualify for sales of the product. The word BANNED came from some other quarter. A distinction needs to be made on this one point.

Email from the Guv’s Office

Earlier, we e-mailed the Governor of California protesting the passing of AB 1735, and much later received a reply that basically repeats the story that six children had gotten sick from E. coli, a pathogenic coliform, from drinking raw organic milk. Now, the genesis of this story would seem to be the CDFA’s earlier claim that six children had gotten ill from E. coli from drinking Organic Pastures’ raw milk — however, to our understanding, the CDFA was never able to back up its claims by providing evidence that any of these purported illnesses were caused by Organic Pastures’ raw milk and — after forcing a recall on Organic Pastures — was forced to settle with Organic Pastures. Worse, our understanding is that one of the points of the agreement was that Organic Pastures would not sue either the CDFA or the individuals involved.

What’s a settlement? That means that CDFA had to pay Organic Pastures good coin of the realm to settle the issue. The CDFA was in the wrong, having forced a recall on a company and then failing to provide the evidence upon which it purported based its call for the recall. And — guess what — that coin of the realm was collected from us California constituents.

Okay, bad enough. Yet, here is this same propaganda being spread by e-mail from Arnold’s office! Which begs the question: WHY? If no children got sick from raw milk with E. coli from Organic Pastures, why is it still being reported as having happened? This would seem to be nothing more than another attempt to smear Organic Pastures’ reputation — and thus impact its business, income and the good will of its customers.

Below is Arnold’s reply to our protest of AB 1735:

Thank you for writing and sharing your thoughts with Governor Schwarzenegger on the passage of Assembly Bill 1735. The Governor truly appreciates your input on this bill.

Since coming into office, the Governor has made it his top priority protect the health and wellness of all Californians, whether it’s cleaning up poor air quality or providing for effective healthcare.

Raw milk has been known to be a source of foodborne illness for decades. For example, in September 2006, the California Department of Public Health linked six cases of infection with the deadly E. coli O157:H7 to the consumption of raw milk. The median age of the victims was 8 years old. In recent years, illness outbreaks have been attributed to raw milk consumption in several states. In fact, raw milk sold for direct human consumption is illegal in all or part of 42 states.

The new standard passed by the Legislature in AB 1735 sets a maximum amount of coliform bacteria at no more than 10 bacteria per mL in milk sold raw to the consumer. This level is consistent with both national and international public health and food safety requirements for pasteurized dairy products.

The standard does not ban raw milk, but serves as an indicator of cleanliness and sanitation on facilities that produce and distribute the product to California consumers. Strict sanitation is especially important when pasteurization is not utilized to ensure harmful bacteria are not present in milk. Milk sold raw to consumers has been held to the same total bacteria count standard as pasteurized milk for more than sixty years. The addition of a coliform standard fills the gap in public health protection and ensures that such products are as safe as possible for all Californians.

Again, thank you for sharing your comments with Governor Schwarzenegger. By working together, we can ensure a healthy and prosperous future for all Californians.


David Richey
Office of Constituent Affairs

Make no mistake: David Richey represents the Governor and is speaking for the Governor about raw milk. Notice Mr. Richey’s statement:

"This level is consistent with both national and international public health and food safety requirements for pasteurized dairy products."

This is for pasteurized (cooked) dairy products! Not organic milk. So AB 1735, like — "all or part of 42 States" or internationally passed "public health and food safety requirements for pasteurized dairy products" — ONLY SERVES THE PASTEURIZED FOOD INDUSTRY.

In other words, the only good milk is pasteurized milk — I don’t think so.

Since Mr. Richey is repeating the CDFA line, it would be most interesting to know when he — or the Governor — learned of it. Before, or after, they learned that the CDFA settled with Organic Pastures, and the terms of that settlement?

What about this coliform bacteria?

And here we come to the bottom line — the number of coliform in milk is NOT important. Coliform is good for you.

It’s E. coli, the bad coliform, that can make one ill; it’s the enemy and should be kept out of milk and other foods. But all coliforms are not E. coli. E. coli can lead to illness. Coliform leads to good health.

Fact is, you could have a container of milk with 10 coliforms including E. coli, and another container with zillions of coliforms and no E. coli. So this "standard" that is supposed to be an "indicator" doesn’t protect us at all.

Yet the CDFA continues to conduct a blanket attack against the good coliform by saying that its very presence could possibly indicate or predict that E. coli could be present in the milk or food — and so all milk must be pasteurized (cooked) which makes it very much LESS nutritious. But it will last longer on the shelves! And that appears to be VERY important. To someone. Much more important than nutritional value.

It would be interesting to trace down where it all started — when did coliform bacteria get a bad name? Where did it go wrong? What PROOF is there that coliform is bad and so must be controlled so that it doesn’t do WHAT? Predict the presence of E. coli? Does coliform have another meaning EQUATING it to E. coli?

It is my understanding that there is already a test for E. coli. And that some raw organic milk dairies ALREADY use it!

So the CDFA wants to also test for levels of coliform, for what? An indicator of cleanliness? Its good to keep the dairy clean, you know where they put the milk in containers, etc., they usually are! Where’s the PROOF that coliform is bad for you?

If it’s so bad for me, what the hell is so much coliform doing living in my body? In my intestines! Billions of them!

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6 Comments for "Raw Milk: AB 1604 passes unanimously in the California Agriculture Committee"

  1. David Richey

    Please note that there is no “office of constituent affairs” within the State of California. That David Richey represents his own views and not the views of others.

    There is an “Office of Constituent Affairs” with the State of Utah – however I suspect that Mr. Richey doesnt’ work there either….

  2. Peter

    Right now my wife is on her seventh week with a ventilator. She is completely paralyzed. This is all due to camplylobacter and raw milk. All the policing in the world will not stop shoddy dairies from selling a contaminated product. Is it worth the risk? The answer would be no if it was you loved one was in this bed. Pete

  3. Diane Vigil

    Hi, Pete. I can certainly understand your point of view; sorry to hear about your wife. I do hope she recovers well.

    You’re right about the dangers, and not just of raw milk, but of food in general. There were some fatalities caused by processed milk in December of 2007. As well, we have the current issues blamed at first on tomatoes (apparently now it’s jalapenos). So it’s always necessary to ensure that what you’re consuming is clean and healthy … and a little difficult to whip out a microscope and testing lab for each batch of food we might propose to eat.

    The problem is that we have to eat. Therefore, I see the requirements of the new Assembly Bill 201 as a good thing: basically requiring far more testing, particularly at critical points in the production sequence — and including direct testing for pathogens.

    Hopefully that will help. I do wish that other foods (tomatoes? jalapenos?) also had more stringent testing.

  4. Deadline 2008: raw milk under threat in California

    […] Raw Milk: AB 1604 passes unanimously in the California Agriculture Committee […]

  5. SB 201: clarifying production standards for raw milk

    […] bacteria (many of which are non-harmful/beneficial) in raw milk but no pathogen testing, then the passing of AB 1604 by the California Agriculture Committee the retraction of the blocking, followed by the April 15, […]

  6. Diane Vigil

    For Dave Richey (first comment here) — sorry for the long delay. Actually, the California State Office of the Governor website indicates that it does have an Office of Constituent Affairs. It’s apparently an Internship Program:

    Constituent Affairs
    The office of Constituent Affairs analyzes incoming communications and responds the Governor’s message to constituents.

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