The Fight for California Raw MilkWe were asked to publish the following press release by (and at the request of) Jennifer Hanson, a staffer to California State Senator Dean Florez, who is Chairman of California’s Select Committee on Food-Borne Illness.

What makes the news contained in the press release shocking — among many other shocking incidents in this very outlandish fight for raw milk — is the fact that the California Department of Food & Agriculture, the very agency responsible for the passing of Assembly Bill 1735 in the dead of night, as it were, is refusing to attend hearings into that very bill (see a brief history of the fight for raw milk).

For Immediate Release

Jennifer Hanson
April 4, 2008
916-651-4016

Senator labels refusal to testify “affront to oversight” CDFA and DPH urged to participate in legislative review of safety of raw milk.

SACRAMENTO – Labeling their actions a “disrespectful affront to the oversight function of the Senate,” Senator Dean Florez, D-Shafter, today sharply criticized the leaders of the departments of public health and agriculture for their refusal to participate in an upcoming hearing on the safety of raw milk.

Florez wrote to A.G. Kawamura, secretary of the California Department of Food & Agriculture (CDFA), and Dr. Mark Horton, director of the California Department of Public Health (DPH), to express his extreme disappointment that they would not send representatives to the April 15 Senate hearing “Farm Fresh Milk: Assuring Safety & Consumer Choice.” The hearing is a joint effort between the Senate Agriculture Committee and the Senate Select Committee on Food-borne Illness, which have jurisdiction over both agencies, as well as agriculture and food safety.

The two committees are scheduled to hear from food safety scientists, retailers, producers and consumers on the raw milk industry as a whole, yet the heads of DPH and CDFA are claiming they cannot participate due to pending litigation with an individual dairy which is not the focus of the hearing.

Florez suggested Kawamura and Horton stop hiding behind their litigation claim and bring legal counsel to the hearing, if they believe there are particular questions it would be inappropriate to answer, rather than deny the Senate information they need to make the best decisions on behalf of California consumers going forward.

Attached is a copy of a letter from CDFA to Florez, in addition to today’s letter from Florez to the leaders of DPH and CDFA.

###

» Read Sen. Dean Florez’ letter and the Press Release (pdf)

What’s the big deal about AB 1735?

AB 1735 is the Assembly Bill that passed through our California State Legislature and signed and supported by California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger last October — all without due process! It was pushed through last October without prior announcement by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

AB 1735 imposes pasteurized standards onto raw organic milk using an arbitrary measurement on coliforms, ostensibly because limiting the number of coliform bacteria would protect consumers from E. Coli. Unfortunately, although E. Coli (which is pathogenic and can make us ill) is one type of coliform, most coliforms are beneficial, and simply limiting the number of coliforms allowed does not protect anyone against E. Coli.

Pasteurized milk is usually produced in a factory-type farm set up where the animals are made to stay in one location and it is possible for their feces to get into the milk. Then the milk is cooked or pasteurized, which seriously depletes its nutritional value.

It’s as if some scientist somewhere decided to test for the number of coliforms in pasteurized milk rather than focusing on and testing for the BAD coliform called E. coli. It doesn’t take much reasoning to conclude that simply enforcing a coliform cap is not the same as testing for E. coli. And yet, AB 1735 enforces this arbitrary and unnecessary coliform count on raw organic milk.

Coliforms are found, by the billions, in YOUR STOMACH! Living, thriving and helping with your digestion and health. They are also found in milk. Cows have them too!

Because pasteurization is the process of cooking the milk, it tends to kill a lot of the coliforms (as well as the beneficial enzymes) in the milk. And so you will naturally get a lower coliform count in pasteurized milk. And pasteurized milk will last longer on the refrigerated shelf.

However, if the pasteurized milk is NOT tested for E. coli or other pathogens, there can be NO guarantee that pasteurized milk won’t get you or your children sick! See the December 2007 article, Two People Die After Drinking Listeria Tainted Milk In Massachusetts — and that’s from pasteurized milk.

If you are aware of what is called a factory farm, one could get the idea that it could be cleaner and healthier for the animals. Many animals get sick and antibiotics are needed. Or someone wants more production from the animals and shoots them full of estrogen. Viola! More milk!

Here in California there are two excellent dairies, Claravale Dairy and Organic Pastures, that produce raw organic milk by allowing the animals to roam and graze freely and produce milk with all its nutrients intact. Being allowed to graze in pastures is quite a bit different than forced to remain in a dirt stall or large pen — among other things, the cows are not necessarily walking around in their own waste products. They stay in better health. They are not shot up with antibiotics, or hormones such as estrogen. It’s CLEAN, nutritious milk, cream, cheese and butter that are produced and brought to market.

And yet our State government imposed a law that is unnecessary for pasteurized milk, simply because pasteurized milk passes the low-coliform count test. (It also passes the low enzyme test, as if low nutrition is a good thing.) No, our State government has determined that what should be measured is the number of good coliform and says that this good coliform can ONLY be in this arbitrarily small amount. THE GOOD COLIFORM!

But it doesn’t mandatorily test for the pathogenic coliform called E. coli for ANY milk.

Thus, AB 1735 — which was passed without pre-notification — favors ONLY the pasteurized milk producers because cooking the milk kills a lot of the good-for-you coliform as well as lowering the nutritional value.

Is this good? I’d say that, generally, the law does NOT favor milk safety, because it doesn’t test for the pathogenic coliform E. coli whatsoever. And wants to accept only pasteurized milk, the milk that gets rid of the good coliform by cooking the milk.

RAW ORGANIC MILK IS NOT PASTEURIZED MILK!

And the coliform count is a useless measurement for milk safety.

All milk should be tested for E. coli before it is sold on the market, be it pasteurized or raw organic milk! That is TRUE safety!

And let the customers decide what they want to put into their bodies — for their own health!

It is my opinion that the above data is what the CDFA doesn’t want to be made known! That is, NO milk is ACTUALLY being tested for pathogens, such as E. coli!

Which begs the questions: Why are the guys who are supposed to be looking out for our health (the California Department of Food and Agriculture) supporting a useless milk safety test instead of testing for the ACTUAL bad coliform called E. coli? Why isn’t the CDFA testing ALL milk for E. coli? Why are we consumers being forced to gamble with our health with ANY consumption of milk?

And now the CDFA is begging off hearings into AB 1735!

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3 Comments for "California State agency refuses to participate in hearings into AB 1735"

  1. Diane Vigil

    I like it. Light of day, and all that. The other thing that bothers me about this obvious attack against raw milk is that it’s happening in other states as well. I look forward to having the actual science (rather than the misinformation) see the light of day.

    I very much hope that Mark McAfee/Organic Pastures Dairy and Claravale Dairy continue with their lawsuit, as I believe that spreading the fact-finding across multiple venues is a good thing. It has become obvious that the CDFA are willing to talk to the farmers and the people, and willing to make their decisions on their own, but not willing to bring their deliberations to the public (and, as I recall, they were not willing to take aboard the farmers’ evidence or hear their experts). Instead we got AB1735 sprung on us as a done deal, with little time to protest before it went into effect. And this is *after* they forced a recall on Organic Pastures and then, months later, admitted that they had no evidence for the recall, and THEN settled with Organic Pastures on the agreement that OPDC would not sue the CDFA or its employees.

    Thus, any hearing or settling of this issue really requires going through authorities higher (and other) than the CDFA. Let the California State Senate and the Court step in, because it’s clear that there ain’t no justice where the CDFA is involved. I mean really: if they were out to protect consumers, they’d have admitted the farmers’ evidence.

    Of course, this is the same California Department of Food and Agriculture that is involved in spraying pesticides over the San Francisco Bay Area in order to combat a moth that, it appears, doesn’t need to be combatted. And the Monterey County Weekly reported that the manufacturer of the pesticide to be sprayed on Californians contributed to Governor Schwarzenegger’s campaign.

    At any rate, the CDFA’s refusal to participate in hearings into its own bill is suspect, at best. I’m not sure what they hope to gain by refusing to participate or to defend their own bill; it looks like a short-term avoidance technique from here. Could it get any weirder?

  2. Deadline 2008: raw milk under threat in California

    […] California State agency refuses to participate in hearings into AB 1735 […]

  3. Senator Florez to replace AB1735?

    […] hearings were conducted by Senator Florez and, as I previously covered in California State agency refuses to participate in hearings into AB 1735, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, which was behind the AB1735 bill, declined to […]

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