The Alliance For Natural Health

The FDA Tramples on Small Food Producers


The FDA does great harm to American consumers not only through its preferential treatment of pharmaceutical drugs and the companies that manufacture them, but through its bias toward large producers in general. We’ve noted that the agency’s proposals for complying with the New Dietary Ingredient (NDI) requirements of federal law would eliminate thousands of supplements from the market. The only supplements that would remain would be those produced by large pharmaceutical companies—companies that have the money to comply with the burdensome and costly regulations.

This same dynamic applies to other areas of FDA jurisdiction, including food regulation.

Over the years the FDA has been hostile toward raw milk and artisanal cheese producers. Although Congress has never banned raw dairy products directly, the FDA has been aggressively targeting small family producers of raw milk for years, as in the year-long sting operation on an Amish dairy farmer, which climaxed in an early morning armed raid and the destruction of his business.

This aggressive stance toward raw milk and cheese is no doubt linked to the government’s close ties to massive dairy companies and “Big Farma.” The truth is, the FDA’s harassment of small dairy producers has almost nothing to do with consumer safety—but a great deal to do with guaranteeing the profits of large dairy producers.

The FDA always backs the biggest food and drug producers—not only do they they directly help pay the agency’s bills, they are also easier to regulate for a number of reasons:

  • it’s much less work to inspect and interact with a small number of large companies rather than a multitude of smaller organizations;
  • big companies have larger staffs and more resources to make a regulator’s job much easier;
  • and if a problem arises with a big company, Congress can help keep it under wraps and conceal it from the public.

The FDA’s war on raw milk

The agency’s stated rationale is that raw milk has a higher likelihood of carrying foodborne illnesses than pasteurized milk. The facts, however, tell a different story. These bad bacteria are often the result of the conditions and practices found on industrial farms—concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs)—notorious for inhumane conditions that are rife with illnesses.

Drinking raw milk from CAFO-raised cows would, indeed, be dangerous, but drinking raw milk from an organically raised, grass-fed cow has been shown to have numerous health benefits. Raw milk has shown to be superior to pasteurized milk in protecting against infection, diarrhea, rickets, tooth decay, and tuberculosis; children drinking raw milk have better growth rates than those drinking pasteurized milk.

If it weren’t for the fact that twenty-eight states allow the sale of raw milk, the FDA would ban it nationally.

Current federal regulations are designed to encourage farmers to take dairy cows off pasture and put them into CAFOs. This practice, however, cuts the productive life expectancy of the cow in half or even more, creates unmanageable disease (not to mention an environmental disaster), and hurts smaller organic dairy farmers.

As the Weston A. Price Foundation notes in their Real Milk campaign, people are 35,000 times more likely to get sick from other FDA-protected foods than from raw milk. The government estimates that 1% to 3% of Americans are drinking raw milk.

Artisanal cheeses on the chopping block

The agency effectively banned the import of raw milk artisanal cheeses of the finest French artisanal cheeses, which are usually made from raw milk that has been cultured with special bacteria, and then aged, which makes them even safer. The requirement that producers must age all cheese longer than sixty days puts an enormous strain on small artisanal farms and cheesemakers.

The FDA claimed that raw milk cheese has a higher incidence of listeriosis—the disease caused by the food-borne pathogen listeria—compared to cheese made from pasteurized milk. However, the real risks are from industrially produced dairy products, even when they are pasteurized, not from small, artisanal cheesemakers.

The CDC determined that between 1993 and 2006, all raw milk products combined caused 202 hospitalizations and two deaths. If the FDA is truly motivated by food-safety concerns, why not take a more aggressive stance toward CAFOs, since contaminated meat and poultry sicken an estimated one million people and kill at least one thousand each year?

Raw milk is healthier

Plenty of evidence shows that raw milk is healthier than pasteurized milk:

  • Pasteurization has been shown to decrease the nutritional content of the milk, reducing levels of copper and iron.
  • The FDA even acknowledges that pasteurization reduces the vitamin C found in milk.
  • The pasteurization process also impairs beta-lactoglobulin, a heat-sensitive protein that helps the intestines absorb vitamin A.
  • As our colleagues at ANH-Europe point out, “Raw milk contains a host of enzymes, immune-modulating proteins, diverse beneficial bacteria, sugars, proteins, fats, minerals, nucleotides, antibodies, and other essential elements needed to nourish a developing baby.”

All of this, of course, is great for the FDA and its crony capitalist clients. It is consumers and small businesses that pay the price. Big food companies are always eager to stamp out competition from smaller companies with better products, and the same is true in the dairy industry. If small producers are wiped out by the FDA, consumers will only be able to buy the big companies’ products, no matter how poor in quality or taste they may be.