The food police are at it again – this time shifting their sights from school kids trying to sell lemonade from neighborhood stands, to grown-ups offering to provide raw or unpasteurized milk to willing consumers. Raw milk is preferred by some consumers because of its richer and more natural flavor – but if you want to try it, you’d best be prepared to be the target of an armed police raid.
In the latest example of raw police power, Rawesome Foods, a members-only health food store in Venice, California that specializes in raw milk and organic foods, recently was the target of just such a SWAT-style raid; this followed a year-long investigation by federal, state, and local authorities.
According to a video about the raid from Reason.tv (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9MVwdv5HBVQ), the agents destroyed all the raw milk in stock at the store and carted off thousands of dollars in produce.
James Stewart, the owner of the store, was arrested during the raid and faces numerous criminal charges, including conspiracy, processing milk without pasteurization, and operating an unlicensed milk plant. His supplier, Sharon Palmer who owns Healthy Family Farms, was arrested in a separate raid.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, which is orchestrating the crack down on production and sale of raw milk, contends that Stewart had been running Rawesome for “more than six years but has never had any type of business permit or license.” Stewart argues that since Rawesome is open only to private members and not the general public, he does not need a business license.
During the lengthy investigation, conducted with all the careful planning of a raid on a major terrorist cell, undercover agents purchased “unpasteurized dairy products from Healthy Family Farms stands at Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara county farmers markets and at Rawesome.”
Rawesome has been targeted by authorities before. In June 2010, agents raided the store, guns drawn, looking for raw dairy products. The Los Angeles Times noted shortly after the raid that agents took “[c]artons of raw goat and cow milk and blocks of unpasteurized goat cheese.”
Unfortunately, this police practice is not an uncommon occurrence, even in Georgia, which also bans the sale and distribution of raw milk. In 2009, for example, raw milk owned by an Athens-area farmer was destroyed by Georgia Department of Agriculture officials. Georgia State Rep. Doug McKillip (R-Athens) and the late Rep. Bobby Franklin (R-Marietta) introduced separate bills in recent legislative sessions to legalize sales of the product. However, legislation permitting consumers the option of consuming raw milk has not yet garnered sufficient support for passage through the legislature.
From the east coast to the west, state governments not only remain dedicated to limiting what products consumers may choose to eat and drink, but with mounting fervor, are imposing criminal sanctions on those who might dare to disagree with decisions of the food police.
By Bob Barr – The Barr Code