WBEZ | raw milk http://www.wbez.org/tags/raw-milk Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Do new FDA actions endanger your favorite cheese? http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/do-new-fda-actions-endanger-your-favorite-cheese-110802 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/rush-creek.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago cheese lovers looking for some traditional French cheeses may be out of luck this year.</p><p>&ldquo;There are certain cheeses we simply aren&#39;t seeing at all at the moment, like Morbier,&rdquo; says Greg O&rsquo;Neil co-owner of Pastoral Cheese Bread &amp; Wine in Lakeview and the Loop. &ldquo;This is unfortunate, because it is a classic and a mover.&rdquo;</p><p>Newly enforced federal guidelines have <a href="http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/CMS_IA/importalert_9.html">stopped many types of imported </a>raw milk cheeses--including Morbier and Roquefort-- at the border in the last six months due to levels of non-toxigenic E. coli.</p><p>So what&rsquo;s wrong with non-toxigenic E. coli?</p><p>WBEZ asked the Food and Drug Administration and a representative sent this:</p><p>&ldquo;While these bacteria don&rsquo;t cause illness, their presence suggests that the cheese was produced in unsanitary conditions.&rdquo;</p><p>This statement runs contrary to 2009 draft guidance by the FDA stating:</p><p>&ldquo;Because of the close association of raw milk with the animal environment, low levels of <em>Escherichia coli </em>may be present in raw milk or products made from raw milk, even when properly produced using GMPs. However, the presence of <em>Escherichia coli </em>in a cheese and cheese product made from raw milk at a level greater than 100 MPN/g (Most Probable Number per gram) indicates insanitary conditions&hellip;&rdquo;</p><p>And so if, according to this 2009 FDA draft, &nbsp;non toxigenic E. coli numbers under 100 MPN can occur in raw milk cheeses under GMP (good manufacturing practices), why did the FDA move in 2010 to lower that number by 90 percent for all dairy? &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>That&rsquo;s a question the American Cheese Society posed to the FDA last week.</p><p>&ldquo;We want to know if there is research data, linkages to foodborne illnesses or a public health risk,&rdquo; said ACS executive director Nora Weiser. &ldquo;Because it&rsquo;s important for us to know if that exists and if that is why they have lowered this standard.&rdquo;</p><p>But, as of press time, the agency said it was still working on an explanation for its 2010 guideline.</p><p>The American Cheese Society is not the only entity cheesed off by the recent enforcement of the guidelines. Chicagoist writer Erika Kubick detailed her concern <a href="http://chicagoist.com/2014/09/11/the_war_on_raw_cheese_continues.php">here.</a>&nbsp;And the Cheese Importers Association of America is gearing up to confront the FDA soon.</p><p>&ldquo;The CIAA would like to reinforce our concern that the FDA is taking regulatory action without recognizing the historic safety of imported cheeses like Roquefort,&quot; the organization said in a statement. &quot;We completely agree that food safety is at the forefront of this decision. However, as was have done with the <a href="http://www.fda.gov/Food/NewsEvents/ConstituentUpdates/ucm400808.htm">wood board aging issue</a>, the FDA is promoting regulation without taking all factors into consideration. This action was discussed at the recent CIAA board meeting, and our concerns will be communicated to the FDA shortly.&rdquo;</p><p>If the presence of non-toxigenic E. coli in raw milk cheese posed a threat to American health, certainly the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would know about it, right? Well, not really.</p><p>The CDC had nothing on its website about the bacteria so WBEZ contacted CDC press officer Christine Pearson. She said she would try to get some information on non-toxigenic E. coli but didn&rsquo;t have an easy time of it.</p><p>She wrote back saying: &ldquo;I heard back from one of my experts that nontoxigenic is not a term that we use.&rdquo; Follow up questions last Friday remained unanswered.</p><p>This lack of clarity and explanation isn&rsquo;t just affecting cheese imports. It also prompted award-winning Uplands Wisconsin cheesemaker Andy Hatch to skip making his famous Rush Creek Reserve raw milk cheese this fall.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m intimidated by the lack of consensus or clarity,&rdquo; Hatch told WBEZ&rsquo;s Chewing the Fat food podcast. &ldquo;I think most cheesemakers are saying the same thing. We&rsquo;re not exactly sure how they&rsquo;re approaching these cheeses...And it&rsquo;s also so perishable so that if anything should hold up shipment, the window for sale is really tight, and so one little hiccup and you&rsquo;ve spoiled months of work.&rdquo;</p><p>International cheesemakers whose products have been &ldquo;Red Listed&rdquo; by the non-toxigenic E. coli guidelines have already been hurt by this hiccup. The questions remains, why?</p><p>Consumers who want to comment on the FDA rules can still do so <a href="http://http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FDA-2009-D-0466-0008.">here</a>.</p><p><em>WBEZ will stay on this story and update it when the FDA responds to the American Cheese Society on the problems posed by exceeding 10 MPN per gram of non-toxigenic E. coli in raw milk cheese.</em></p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at</em><a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> <em>@monicaeng</em></a> <em>or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 15:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/do-new-fda-actions-endanger-your-favorite-cheese-110802 Illinois regulators put squeeze on raw milk rules http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/illinois-regulators-put-squeeze-raw-milk-rules-110769 <p><p>On a warm summer night on Chicago&rsquo;s northwest side, the dusk brings out a chorus of loud cicadas. &nbsp;</p><p>It also brings out out a flock of enthusiastic raw milk drinkers. One by one, they pull up to a large corner house. They schlep their coolers on to the wooden porch and pack them with the ice cold jars of snow white liquid.</p><p>Based on national percentages, an estimated 400,000 Illinoisians--and I count myself among them --pay up to $18 a gallon for this stuff. Many drive more than a hour to get it from farms and pick up points like this one. And most believe it strengthens their immune system and improves their health.</p><p>But some public health officials believe just the opposite. Nationally, raw milk (or raw milk products) have been linked to more than 100 foodborne illness outbreaks over the last 17 years. And so this week, the Illinois Department of Public Health proposed new rules that could greatly restrict the distribution of unpasteurized milk produced in the state.</p><p>Raw milk supporters, however, object to proposed regulations that would require farmers to invest in costly new equipment, hand over customer lists to the government upon request and abide by the same rules whether they had one cow or 1,000.</p><p>This doesn&rsquo;t make sense to one dad who was picking up several jars of milk for his family. He says that his children&rsquo;s ear infections disappeared when his family started drinking the milk a few years ago. And he&rsquo;s opposed to any new measures to restrict his access.</p><p>&ldquo;Raw milk is a food that&rsquo;s vital for many people,&rdquo; said the customer who chose not to give his name. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s also healthy and it&rsquo;s our right to choose what we want to eat.&rdquo;</p><p>But others are not so sure that buying raw milk should be a right in Illinois. Dr. Terry Mason is Chief Operating Officer of the Cook County Department of Public Health. That group&rsquo;s initial position, he says was &ldquo;not to have the sale of raw milk at all.&rdquo;</p><p>To that end, the department enlisted Illinois Representative Dan Burke (D-23) to sponsor a bill to ban raw milk sales in Illinois earlier this year.</p><p>&ldquo;I was convinced they had a legitimate issue,&quot; Burke recalls. &quot;[So]I presented the bill and then the floodgates opened.&quot;</p><p>Those floodgates were thousands of phone calls to Burke and his colleagues from raw milk supporters all over the state.</p><p>&ldquo;They insisted that there are very significant health benefits from the consumption of raw milk,&rdquo; he remembers. &ldquo;I mean individuals who have children with epilepsy, with Down Syndrome, you name it, there was someone who called to insist that their child, family member, friend whoever benefitted from the consumption of raw milk.&rdquo;</p><p>Burke said that in two-plus decades of politics he&rsquo;d never seen an issue galvanize the public like this. And so last April, even after the bill had survived committee, he did a 180 and dropped support for his own legislation.</p><p>This sudden change of heart didn&rsquo;t thrill Mason and his colleagues at the Northern Illinois Public Health Consortium, which Mason leads.</p><p>&ldquo;We were obviously taken aback by that position, that reposition,&rdquo; Mason recalls. &ldquo;But we understand and respect the Representative&rsquo;s right to do that sort of thing. And want to be consistent with what the Centers for Disease Control have already published and they do not support the sale of raw milk.&rdquo;</p><p>Indeed, federal health authorities and the American Academy of Pediatrics &nbsp;largely oppose the sale and distribution of raw milk--a drink that can harbor many bacteria that would be killed through pasteurization.</p><p>But proponents of the drink argue that no food is risk-free and that many of bacteria in raw milk can be beneficial.</p><p>In response, public health officials like Mason point to outbreaks.</p><p>&ldquo;There have been 104 between 1998 to 2011 that we&rsquo;ve been able to keep track of and 82 percent of those have involved people under 20 years old,&rdquo; he notes.</p><p>These figures are accurate on a national level. But those who oppose the regulations point out that there hasn&rsquo;t been a single illness outbreak connected to Illinois-produced raw milk--the milk affected by these new rules--since 1998.</p><p>And for this reason, Wes King of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance calls the proposed regulations, &ldquo;A solution in search of a problem. We see no recent history of foodborne illness related to raw milk here in Illinois.&rdquo;</p><p>This lack of illness leads some to question why a cash-strapped state like Illinois would spend so much time and money on a product that is boosting the local small farm economy and hasn&rsquo;t caused a problem for more than 15 years.</p><p>Mason&rsquo;s department says that it&rsquo;s a preventive measure to avoid potential future outbreaks.</p><p>&ldquo;We wanted to make sure that those rules did as much as they could do to adequately control the sale of raw milk and make it easier for us to identify where there may be breaches and or diseases related to the sale of raw milk,&rdquo; he said.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RAW MILK COW.jpg" style="height: 188px; width: 250px; float: left; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" title="Most of the raw milk sold in the Midwest comes from cows that graze on pasture. Milk from pastured cows has been linked to better metabolic outcomes in animal studies. (WBEZ/MONICA ENG)" />But Illinois raw milk farmer Donna O&#39;Shaughnessy believes that the agency is acting on behalf of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration which paid for some of the rulemaking process. She also believes big industrial dairy is worried by the growing popularity of raw milk as its own product sales decline.</p><p>&ldquo;The sales of pasteurized milk have gone down by 25 percent,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;So rather than improving their own product it becomes easier to disparage farmers who produce raw milk.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>Raw milk is currently legal for retail sale in 11 states but illegal in 17 others. The rest fall in between with policies that limit its distribution.</p><p>Similar battles are erupting across the country as authorities threaten to clamp down on foods ranging from raw dairy and wild boar to cheese aged on wooden boards. Journalist and author David Gumpert chronicled these trends in his recent book &ldquo;Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights: The Escalating Battle Over Who Decides What We Eat.&rdquo;</p><p>Upon reading the proposed legislation Gumpert wrote to WBEZ in an email:</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s an exaggeration for IDPH to suggest, as it does in IL Register that, without some kind of law of this kind, raw milk sales are illegal under federal law. Raw milk sales/distribution are regulated by the states (and interstate sale/shipment is prohibited under federal law). Some states that allow raw milk sales do it via laws, others (like Michigan) do it via policy understandings.&rdquo;</p><p>So who are these hundreds of thousands of raw milk drinkers in Illinois?</p><p>O&#39;Shaugnessy says her customers are young mothers, body builders and Europeans who enjoy easy access to raw milk (even in vending machines) in their own country. Finally, she says, she gets a lot of business from seniors who &ldquo;remember how great they felt when they drank it as a child. And the one thing that unites all of them is that they drink it for health.&rdquo;</p><p>So what do officials say to Illinois&#39; thousands of drinkers who claim it has improved their health and chronic conditions?</p><p>&quot;Anecdote is not something we follow,&quot; says Dr Mason of the Cook County Department of Public Health. &quot;We like to look at the science and the science is overwhelmingly in favor of the fact that patsteurized milk is something that saves lives.&quot;</p><p>While many health claims for raw milk do remain anecdotal, at least <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21875744">one 2011 study</a> of 8,334 rural children in Austria, Germany and Switzerland links raw milk consumption to lower levels of asthma and allergies. The children in the same environment who drank boiled versions of the same milk did not enjoy the protective effects.</p><p>O&#39;Shaugnessy agrees that raw milk comes with risks. But the Central Illinois farmer says that she doesn&rsquo;t know of any customers who make the long drive to her farm or pay the exorbitant prices ($7-$18 a gallon) without reading up on what they are buying.</p><p>She served as a member of the Illinois Dairy Working Group that helped draft the proposed rules last year. But she says the input of small farmers like her were largely ignored in the final process.</p><p>The proposed rules don&#39;t ban or criminalize raw milk in the state, but O&#39;Shaugnessy says, &ldquo;They are very clearly trying to make raw milk sales and consumption in Illinois impossible.&rdquo;</p><p>O&#39;Shaughnessy and King of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance say that they know many farmers who say that they simply won&rsquo;t comply with the rules if they are passed.</p><p>&ldquo;Then it will just go underground and people won&rsquo;t be any safer,&rdquo; she predicts. &ldquo;People are not going to stop. And then what are they going to do? Are they going to start posting people at the end of the driveway? &nbsp;Are they going to start video taping our customers as they come up the drive? Are they going to start checking people&rsquo;s trunks as they leave our farm? The public is not going to stand for this.&rdquo;</p><p>Indeed, Burke says that he expects the same flood of raw milk supporters who deluged him last spring to oppose these new regulations. But this time, he may be among them.</p><p>&ldquo;After that number of calls,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m convinced that the product is beneficial to this community and should be available...In fact, I drank some myself and it was pretty good.&rdquo;</p><p>Back on the porch in Chicago, another customer is picking up his bottles of raw milk. I ask him what he&rsquo;ll do if the new rules effectively dry up supplies to the city. &nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I wouldn&rsquo;t drink milk anymore,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s the simplest answer I can say. &nbsp;I just wouldn&rsquo;t drink the other stuff.&rdquo;</p><p>The Illinois Department of Public Health will take <a href="http://www.idph.state.il.us/rulesregs/proposedrules.htm#FirstNotice">comments on the proposed rules </a>for the next 45 days. After that, the fate of Illinois&rsquo; raw milk will pour into the hands of Joint Committee on Administrative Rulemaking which will also take 45 days of comments.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at</em><a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> <em>@monicaeng</em></a> <em>or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Tue, 09 Sep 2014 07:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/illinois-regulators-put-squeeze-raw-milk-rules-110769 Are raw milk advocates getting a raw deal? http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-01-26/are-raw-milk-advocates-getting-raw-deal-95847 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2012-January/2012-01-26/David Hammond.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>If you have been following the Republican presidential race, you have probably heard a lot of talk, especially from folks like Ron Paul, about less government and the supremacy of individual rights. The push for all of those principles was apparent Dec. 8 at a <a href="http://chicagoist.com/2011/11/30/raw_milk_rally_to_taunt_fda_in_irvi.php" target="_blank">raw milk rally in Chicago</a>. It was organized by those passionately committed to drinking milk that goes pretty much straight from udder to cup. <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> food contributor David Hammond was there and he talked to some the supporters and opponents of raw milk.<br> <br> David Hammond is a founding moderator of <a href="http://www.lthforum.com/bb/index.php" target="_blank">LTHForum.com</a>, a Chicago-based culinary chat site. You can read his <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/lifestyles/food/9998847-423/food-detective-a-bite-of-the-wild-side-at-annual-raccoon-fest.html" target="_blank">“Food Detective”</a> column every Wednesday in the <em>Chicago Sun-Times</em>.</p></p> Thu, 26 Jan 2012 15:20:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-01-26/are-raw-milk-advocates-getting-raw-deal-95847 The Challenge of Choosing a Cheese (illegal or not) http://www.wbez.org/dhammond/2010/02/the-challenge-of-choosing-a-cheese-illegal-or-not/15811 <p><p style="text-align: left;"><a href="/sites/default/files/archives/blogs//Slices.jpg"><img class="aligncenter size-full wp-image-15819" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 7px;" title="Slices" src="/sites/default/files/archives/blogs//Slices.jpg" alt="" width="490" height="367" /></a>It's a foodie article of faith that when it comes to younger cheeses, raw milk will always make a better cheese than pasteurized milk. To test that belief, I found a cheese-maker who agreed to prepare two pairs of camembert, using the same techniques and milk from the same cow: one would be made of raw and the other of pasteurized milk. After 30 days, I performed a taste test with foodies, chefs and some local cheese mongers to see if the differences were apparent; the results of the taste test can be <a href="http://www.chicagopublicradio.org/program_wv.aspx">heard on Worldview</a>, along with some insights into why it's illegal to sell raw milk cheese aged under 30 days -- and what we're missing by not having young raw milk cheese commercially available in the United States.<!--break--></p> During the production of this piece, my friend Michael Gebert videotaped the underground cheese-making process, and it can be viewed here and on <a href="http://skyfullofbacon.com/blog/?p=366" target="blank">skyfullofbacon.com</a>. Co-nominated for a James Beard Foundation multimedia award, Gebert's video blog documents the people and issues behind food in the Midwest. <object classid="clsid:d27cdb6e-ae6d-11cf-96b8-444553540000" width="500" height="281" codebase="http://download.macromedia.com/pub/shockwave/cabs/flash/swflash.cab#version=6,0,40,0"><param name="allowfullscreen" value="true" /><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always" /><param name="src" value="http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=8878034&amp;server=vimeo.com&amp;show_title=0&amp;show_byline=0&amp;show_portrait=0&amp;color=00ADEF&amp;fullscreen=1" /><embed type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="500" height="281" src="http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=8878034&amp;server=vimeo.com&amp;show_title=0&amp;show_byline=0&amp;show_portrait=0&amp;color=00ADEF&amp;fullscreen=1" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object> Singer songwriter James Farrell composed this cheese-appropriate tune, "Choosing a Cheese," which closes the Worldview segment. Check it out. <a href="/sites/default/files/archives/blogs//Choosing-a-Cheese-final.mp3">Choosing a Cheese (final)</a></p> Mon, 22 Feb 2010 11:35:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/dhammond/2010/02/the-challenge-of-choosing-a-cheese-illegal-or-not/15811