American Elephants

The Democrats’ Insatiable Demand to Regulate Other People’s Lives by The Elephant's Child

Nanny government strikes again.  Or should we call them the Food Police? The Food Police raided an Amish farm in Pennsylvania,at 5 o’clock in the morning.  The raid was the result of a yearlong sting operation including aliases and surreptitious purchases, which concluded this week with the federal government’s announcement that it has gone to court to stop Rainbow Acres Farm from selling its contraband to willing customers.  The contraband in question— unpasteurized milk.

This is a battle that has been going on behind the scenes for years.  Natural foods advocates argue that raw milk is healthier than the pasteurized product.  The Food and Drug Administration says that raw milk may carry harmful bacteria such as salmonella, E. coli and listeria. (So does the raw chicken you bring home from the store, but most people learn to cook the chicken).

Tamara Ward, FDA spokesman said “It is the FDA’s position that raw milk should never be consumed.” They filed a 10-page complaint in federal court seeking an order to stop the farm from shipping across state lines any more raw milk or dairy products made from it.

This  federal government has become noted for all the violations of law that they choose to ignore, but drinking raw milk is beyond the pale.  Raw-milk devotees are furious.

Raw-milk devotees say pasteurization, the process of heating food to kill harmful organisms, eliminates good bacteria as well, and changes the taste and health benefits of the milk. Many raw-milk drinkers say they feel much healthier after changing over to it, and insist they should have the freedom of choice regarding their food.

One defense group says there are as many as 10 million raw-milk consumers in the country. Sales are perfectly legal in 10 states but illegal in 11 states and the District, with the other states having varying restrictions on purchase or consumption.

Congress has joined the nanny state regulation.  They are forcing vendors to post the calorie counts of vending machine items. Thus we will pick the ancient apples instead of potato chips or heaven forbid — a Snickers bar.

Last year, President Obama signed the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act which grants the FDA all sorts of new regulatory authority. ($1.4 billion in new spending— did you think regulation is free?)

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act would authorize the FDA to dictate how farmers grow fruits and vegetables, including rules governing soil, water, hygiene, packing, temperatures, and even what animals may roam which fields and when. It would also increase inspections of food “facilities” and tax them to do so. And, fulfilling the dream of a long line of agency officials, the bill grants the FDA unilateral authority to order recalls.

There’s more.  The USDA, the Department of Agriculture, has declared war on potatoes. The tuber itself contains no fat, is low in calories, and supplies about the same nutrition as a banana.  It adapts itself deliciously to being fried, topped with sour cream, butter, bacon and cheese. Bananas only get topped with ice cream and chocolate sauce.

The Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine recently recommended that the potato should be blacklisted from the variety of starchy vegetables to be included in the federally funded, state-provided WIC (Women, Infants ,Children) program.  That is now trickling down into the school lunch program.

This is idiocy. A very large percentage of school lunches end up in the garbage can, as anyone who has visited a school during lunch period can attest. The elimination of salt has spoiled flavor, and contra Mrs. Obama, parents are better judges of what their children should eat than the federal government.

The federal government is intruding into areas where it does not belong.  Big Time! Neither the FDA nor the Department of Agriculture nor any of their assorted bureaus have any business telling the American people what they may or may not eat. But the Nannies desire to tell other people what to do is insatiable.

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It’s time for Americans to say “ENOUGH!” No where in the constitution does it give the government any right to tell me what I can or cannot put into my own body.
I just planted a garden–I suppose if they could, they would regulate that, as well. I haven’t planted potatoes, but now I will for sure. Great post.


Comment by Freedom, by the way

Is this a “Democratic” action, or the action of a bureaucracy with many years of enforcing often dubious regulations established by Congress (and not only Democrats in Congress). Sales of unpasteurized milk have been banned in the United States for decades.

Small technical correction: Obama signed the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act on Jan 4th of this year, not last year. That act was approved unanimously by all the Democrats and both Independents in the Senate, as well as 15 Republican Senators. That is not at all to say it was a good piece of legislation.

I think there is a more fundamental problem here, though: the increasing disconnect between most U.S. citizens and the food they eat. That has made many people vulnerable to all sorts of food scares.

An alternative model is provided by France. There, the whole population are foodies, and are quite comfortable with buying poultry and fish with the heads still on, horsemeat, snails, and unpasteurized milk and especially cheese made from unpasteurized milk. The people’s, and therefore the government’s, approach is to ensure high standards of hygiene in the production, processing, transport and storage of food, but otherwise to revel in the abundance of what nature and farmers can offer.

Years ago, there was an outbreak of lysteria traced to cheese in Britain. The UK authorities blamed imports of unpasteurized cheese from France. Somebody then did some testing. Turned out that British (pasteurized) cheese contained on average much higher levels of the lysteria bacterium than French cheese.

Finally, a small bit of trivia: the head of the FDA is Dr. Hamburg. What a great name for somebody in charge of food-saftey regulations, eh?


Comment by Subsidy Eye

Oh, entrenched bureaucracy, of course, but every regulation coming from the executive branch is the responsibility of the president. Raw milk is legal in 10 states, restricted in 11. There are estimated to be 10 million raw milk consumers in the country. People are vulnerable to food scares, but the food police often do not know what they are talking about. Changing views on nutrition, what’s good for you and what’s not are the rule. I agree though, that the government should be involved in food hygiene — I started to say safety, but they interpret that way too broadly. Most farmers who sell raw milk take extraordinary caution in their processes. What people choose to eat is their business. I got the “last year” from Heritage. Many , if not most, of the food scares come from activist groups like the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Center for Food Safety. The former are opposed to anything that tastes good. This is an era when many young mothers seem incredibly susceptible to food propaganda. “Natural” and “Organic” and “local food” are assumed to be meaningful terms, and they are easily scared.
Good name! I used to have a pediatrician named Dr. I. Fine.


Comment by The Elephant's Child

Thanks for the correction on the patchwork of state regulations on the selling of raw milk. I grew up on a farm drinking raw milk from our own cow, but then moved to a state where raw milk was not available. I guess I assumed that it had been banned. My bad.

I got the date of the President signing the bill from the FDA website.

Regarding “natural” and “organic”, they are very different things. Hemlock is natural, but it will kill you pretty quickly. Many people eat organic foods for perceived nutritional benefits. Some of the claims have been validated, but most of them are exaggerated. However, there are many well-documented benefits for the long-term health of the soil and for biodiversity from the use of organic practices. As long as people are willing to pay a premium for organically grown produce — i.e., the market is determined by supply and demand — I don’t see any harm in it.

There was a podiatrist down the street from where I once lived named Foot, I kid you not.


Comment by Subsidy Eye

Names that correspond to occupation are great fun.

‘Natural’ has no meaning. Define ‘unnatural.’ ‘Organic’ is a marketing ploy, and refers only to the process of how things are grown. There is no implication of health, nutrition, quality. Things must be grown with manure as a fertilizer. To the extent that it is well composted. it’s all right, but there is an increased risk of E coli. Insecticides must also be non-chemical, which means those derived from the pyrethrums, a deadly poison. Organic farming takes about a third more land than regular farming, and organic food costs about 30% more —all increases that we can’t really afford when we’re trying to feed the world. This all is derived from the notion that “chemicals” are bad, and “natural” is good, without any understanding that it’s all “chemicals.”

The harm is that the environmentalists want all food to be “organic”, at the same time they want us to be vegetarians (no manure) and they’re anxious to get rid of cattle, and have all chickens free range. We need increased production of food, not less. There are always trade-offs, some unacceptable. I don’t know how the FDA was persuaded to get in the organic game, but you can read the rules at the FDA website. “Localism” is now a fad, completely ignoring the blessing of fresh vegetables and fruit in the winter.


Comment by The Elephant's Child

Drinking unpasteurised milk is a definite health risk. I grew up drinking untreated milk and consequntly suffer from Undulant Fever, a debilitating complaint which has a monthly cycle. The symptoms are extreme tiredness and sleepiness, weight problems, etc when it reoccurs as it will throught the victim’s life. It is often confused with Glandular Fever in children. Most dairy producing nations do not allow the sale of raw milk for very good public health reasons. This is not ‘Nanny Statism’ but good government.


Comment by Alexander K

I agree with the premise of your post. The goverment is increasingly growing to large. I just wanted to point out that the reason the FDA discourages unpasteurized milk and the majority of states make it illegal is because it was the main source of m. bovis, a common cause of tuberculosis. Before pasteurization tuberculosis was epidemic. Just wanted to point that out. Done. Great post btw.


Comment by Dan

@ Alexander

Thank you for the added information about Undulant Fever, which I for one did not know about. I knew about Brucellosis in cattle, but not in humans. Sounds pretty nasty, and I’m sorry to hear you have it.

Where did you grow up? In the map of Europe on the Wikipedia link above, it shows that in 2006 most of Northern Europe reported no cases of the disease in livestock. Could it not be regulated in a way that triggered a ban as soon as a case of Brucellosis was reported?


Comment by Subsidy Eye

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