Saturday, March 29, 2014
HB 4036 Amendment #1 to make all Raw Milk Illegal in Illnois....Dead or in Hiding?
As promised yesterday a summary of my conversation with Chrissy Carlson , Executive Director of Northern Illinois Public Health Consortium, Inc. Chicago. Ms. Carlson returned my call late yesterday afternoon, was very polite and I feel spent a good amount of time hearing my concerns. I was in fact very happy about this return call since between my husband and I we had contacted 8 separate public health departments in our state and had been told repeatedly that THEY had been told to tell us they had "No Comment."
Was it just us or did others of you get similar responses if you called any of the public health offices in Illinois?
You might recall from yesterdays post Northern Illinois Public Health Consortium Inc serves 9 counties and 2 large cities in Northern Illinois, and it is was this organization who supplied the fact sheet in support of HB 4036 HA1 to Representative Daniel Burke the sponsor of the bill that went through the General Assembly Committee hearings on March 26.
The Fact Sheet contained 12 bullet points and just 8 references. Of the 8 references, the CDC was listed 4 times. I'm going to share the highlights of our chat.
Me: I'm very concerned about this fact sheet since so much of the data is oversimplified and not specific in anyway to Illinois. Where did this fact sheet originate?
Ms. Carlson: "One of our MD members completed the fact sheet."
Me: Can you tell me why you are concerned about the incidence of raw milk illness, have you had any raw milk related illnesses reported in the area you serve?
Ms. Carlson: "I'm not sure because it's not a reportable disease."
Me: So you are not aware of any raw milk related illnesses in the 9 county area you serve?
Ms. Carlson: "No, I am not."
Me: Are you aware of the number of raw milk drinkers in the area you serve?
Ms. Carlson: "No."
Me: You might be interested in knowing that on our small 11 cow dairy farm we sell raw milk to over 100 customers each month, on average over 400 gallons and in the 20 years we have been doing so we have not yet received one complaint of illness via a public health lodged complaint or direct from a consumer. We understand that raw milk illnesses can occur but statistically speaking when compared to the very huge number of folks who are consuming raw milk the risk in my opinion, is minuscule.
Me: Please help me understand, if you are not seeing any raw milk related illnesses in your area can you tell me about food borne illnesses that are being reported? Perhaps the 3 major food borne related illnesses that have been reported this last year?
Ms. Carlson: "No, I'm sorry I don't know that."
Me: Then please help me understand why you feel raw milk should be made illegal in Illinois in light of the fact that you are not seeing any increased reports, or indeed any reports of raw milk related illnesses.
Ms. Carlson: "We rely on the CDC (Center for Disease Control) for all our facts. The CDC is the most credible source of information not a single dairy farmer."
Me: " Have you or any of your staff ever heard of the Westin A Price Foundation or looked into the numerous research studies being done in Europe about raw milk.?"
Ms. Carlson: "No, we haven't"
Me: I gave her other resources and encouraged her to broaden her research base, and to avoid repeating old statistics that have been circulating for years. I also encouraged her to gather specific statistics on raw milk illnesses in her area in the last 10 years and then compare them in incidence to the top three food-borne related illnesses in that same region. I also asked her...
Me: Have you ever visited a raw milk farm?
Ms. Carlsom: "No, I have not"
Me: I invited her to visit ours. She did not suggest a date but the offer, Ms. Carlson, remains open.
Finally I asked her..."Are you aware of what will happen to small farmers and raw milk sales in general if raw milk production is made illegal in Illinois? I told her of the hundreds of small raw milk famers who might lose their farms and specifically told her of the great financial loss to our farm. Ialso shared my fear that if made illegal, folks who have no business caring for cows will buy a few just to be able to sell illegal raw milk for $40 a gallon and that with this practice raw milk related illnesses will SOAR. Her response?
Ms. Carslon: "Why can't you just sell to the milk companies like everyone else?"
Me: I explained how we were not like everyone else. How we are certified organic but so small no organic milk company will bother with us. Discussed with her how it costs far more to produce our high quality milk than any "milk company would ever pay us enough to do", how we lost money for years selling to co-ops who paid low, unfair prices set up for big dairy, not small, HOW IDPH ignored us four years ago when we went direct with our milk sales but they refused to inspect us so we could keep our GRADE A license and finally told her because we have good decent direct consumers who are willing to pay a FAIR price for an excellent product.
Summary: Again let me say how much I appreciate Ms. Carlson taking the time to call me back. I am sure this raw milk issue which is huge for me and many others in this state is just a small fly in a huge worms nest she must deal with every day. I have been that public official on the other side of the phone who gets blindsided by an angry patient or consumer on a topic where I was not given the correct information and it's not easy but then again just like the rest of us...she chose her job and is not forced to work there.
She never lost her cool with me, she listened to what I had to say and she never cut me off. I hope that our conversation shed some light on a situation she obviously was not well versed. I was however very disappointed that she could not even tell me the incidences of raw milk related illnesses in the counties she serves.
As of this morning I am still getting emails and phone calls from individuals who choose not to identify themselves who are saying that Representative Burke was totally inundated with calls, letters, emails from concerned citizens as well as numerous Republican representatives who were hearing from THEIR irate constituants, and therefore he will not be pursuing Amendment #1 to HB 4036.
Only time will tell.
Just a reminder if you have not yet taken this survey on raw milk in Illinois please do. results will be shared with those at the Illinois Public Health Department still trying to pass very restrictive laws. MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD! https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ILRAWMILK