Monday, April 29, 2013

Raw Milk Monday...What next ? Tiramisu?

After weeks of phone calls, emails, media interviews and conference calls we are finally just hours away from the May 1 meeting of the Dairy Work Group.

Again, lots has happened this past week. The Kankakee Daily Journal interviewed me and several of our raw milk customers and Keith was (reluctantly) photographed for the front page article. Fortunately dairy cow Ariel cooperated  by grazing quietly for the camera. We've had several phone calls and emails of support and several donations towards the cost of the bus we are renting for
May 1.  (Please join us, the bus leaves our farm at 07:30 and return sat 3:30 pm on May 1)

Just $100 short of the bus rental fee we have been truly humbled by the generosity of strangers some living as far away as New Mexico and Washington.

We, the group of small raw milk farmers, Westin A Price leaders and consumers, remain frustrated with some of IDPH less than honorable actions of late but we are all also positive that our work will encourage IDPH to step back and away from some of the more stringent proposed rules.

The issue of most misinformation is the actual raw milk illness data which I will share and clarify here. In a letter to the General Assembly dated April 9, IDPH Director Dr. Hasbrouck states that between 2006-2010 there were a total of 116 food borne illnesses. related to raw milk in Illinois.   In an attached table he lists specifically that in 2006 there were 18 illnesses related to raw milk that came from an Amish Farm, 96 illnesses associated with Mexican Style Cheese and 2 illnesses in 2010  related to milk brought into Illinois from another state.

No other specifics were given by Dr. Hasbrouck in this letter to the General Assembly.

The reason being...the specifics make it clear that raw milk produced by a raw milk farmer in Illinois according to the current law in not a problem.

This is why.

The 18 cases stated as caused by an "Amish Farm" in 2006 have never been proven. There is no written evidence, no written reports about this farm. Later that year IDPH states that 96 became ill after eating " Mexican Style " cheese, sold in a grocery store. This is cheese that is made illegally with raw milk since state law prohibits PROCESSING of raw milk into other products. And the two cases stated in 2010 came from Raw Milk produced on a farm in Indiana and distributed by a Michigan Distributor into Illinois, also illegal as interstate distribution of raw milk is prohibited by the FDA.

This brings us back to my original statement at the Feb 22 mtg of the then raw milk steering committee and now being called the Dairy work group that...There are no verified cases of food borne illness related to fluid raw milk produced and sold by an Illinois Raw Milk Farmer.

But, just for arguments sake, lest say that the 116 food borne illnesses listed by IDPH in their April 9th letter were valid, proven, investigated and verified. That would mean there were on average 23 food borne illnesses related  to raw milk and raw milk cheese per year. No deaths.

Compare that to these state of Illinois Food borne Illness facts: (from the CDC, Center For Disease Control and Prevention's own web site)

     in 2006  there were 869 food borne related illnesses that occurred in restaurants
     in 2007  there were 401 illnesses related to the consumption of "Pot Pie"
     in 2008  there were 36 illnesses related to a "turtle chocolate cookie"
     in 2009 there were 189 illnesses related to "ice,lemonade" in a school
     in 2010  there were 314 illnesses related to bread consumption at a drive through. But even more 
                   upsetting, there were 7 illnesses related to the love of my life...Tiramisu !

Well you get my drift. Of course those other food borne illnesses I listed above were only a very small part of the total number of food borne illnesses from all reported sources which numbered by the way...3,316 in Illinois in 2006 alone

We, the small raw milk farmers and consumers of Illinois understand there is of course RISK, involved with anything we consume. But the level of risk one takes when consuming raw milk is very very low and must be the responsibility of the producer and the milk drinker. Not be left in the hands of those who would eliminate something as healthy and nutrient-packed as raw milk but allow us to eat all the Turtle Chocolate Cookies we can handle.



  1. I wish I could make the trip. May the your pen be mightier than their sword.

  2. Donna, I will be attending the meeting with the group of raw milk consumers from Springfield, along with an Amish farmer from Arthur. I believe we need to tread lightly in this meeting - we are not going to win over the committee by getting in a dispute over the facts. For all its faults, IDPH takes public comment seriously, and we need to use the opportunity judiciously. As producers, you and Keith obviously have more skin in this game, so I think you can rightfully focus on the economic impact of the proposed rules. As a consumer, I will be coming at this from a different perspective - indirect economic impact (I have to buy gas, and might spend money going to and from the producer's farm), and also the loss of a valuable Illinois farm product as an informed consumer. IDPH will listen as long as we are cool-headed and reasonable. I look forward to meeting you on Wednesday.

    -- Lee Bertagnolli