A guns-drawn raid on a Venice food pantry late last month was the latest salvo by government regulators in their war on health freedom and consumer sovereignty. No less than four state agencies and two federal ones participated in the early morning raid of Rawesome Foods, a farm-to-consumer distribution center.
The only discernible crime of the private, members-only buying club was their failure to operate a food facility without a license. Rawesome immediately restocked and resumed normal operations after the state-sanctioned intrusion, contending that it never operated in a retail capacity and does not fall under the commercial jurisdiction of the regulatory agencies. The LA Times debriefed its readers on the baffling Op:
Agencies that participated in the raid on Rawesome included the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Investigators confiscated the club's computer and 17 coolers packed with, among other things, 24 bottles of organic honey, 10 gallons of raw whole milk and two bottles of raw cane syrup.
In all, police absconded with close to $10,000 worth of food belonging to club members. But who or what, exactly, are these officials protecting and serving by harassing raw food distributors? Farm-to-consumer and health freedom advocates argue it's most definitely not the public.
"This is about control and profit, not our health," said Aajonus Vonderplanitz, co-founder of Rawesome Foods. "How can we not have the freedom to choose what we eat?"
George Hemminger, founder of Survive and Thrive TV stated to Russia Today that the strong arm police tactics so frequently used against raw food buying clubs is not about public safety. He says raids like the one on Rawesome Foods are conducted to protect the profits of large food and drug corporations. According to Hemminger, these are the same companies who own the regulatory agencies which enact policies designed to stifle entrepreneurial competition and local food economies.
Though the Food and Drug Administration says its concerned for public health, raw food advocates don't believe consumer health and wellness is the top priority of the agency. The FDA does have a questionable track record. It continues to approve drugs whose adverse reactions are among the leading causes of preventable death in this country.
Along with the US Department of Agriculture, they habitually refuse to enforce their own safety standards on large food processors. This is a division of the government whose leadership shares a revolving door with biotech firms such as Monsanto (makers of the rBGH injected into most industrial dairy cows to artificially stimulate lactation) and with pharmaceutical interests.
Regulators and their staff scientists claim epidemiological evidence exists (irrespective of the thousands of years of raw dairy consumption by human civilizations) to link raw milk to disease outbreaks caused by the likes of E. coli, campylobacter, salmonella and listeria. For this reason, the FDA has banned the interstate sale of products containing raw milk.
Opponents of pasteurization maintain that the agency has yet to back up its policies with any sound science. In fact, researchers at the Weston A. Price Foundation have thoroughly demolished the official argument behind universal pasteurization of milk and other foods.
"In your gut right now you have salmonella," Lela Buttery, a volunteer for Rawesome Foods told NPR's Guy Raz. "You have E. coli. You have listeria. We've evolved with it, and it's what your immunity is made out of."
Buttery is more than puzzled about the state-sponsored hysteria concerning raw milk.
"The milk that I'm drinking is straight from the cow, so it has the enzymes to pre-digest the proteins that are in it. It has the nutrients that haven't been killed. And the vitamins haven't been fortified by synthetic vitamins," she says. "I can buy as much alcohol as I want, but I can't drink this enzymatic, nutrient-rich superfood?"
Food borne illness, proponents of raw foods assert, is largely the result of a centralized and industrialized food supply which takes milk, meat and eggs from malnourished, antibiotic-laced, hormone-ridden and disease-prone animals. It also forces the sale of healthy, small farm products onto the black market, or in Rawesome's case, the gray market. Here, buying club membership is the only access many urban dwellers have to fresh farm products.
Co-ops such as Rawesome have come under increasing regulatory pressure in recent years as a growing number of consumers have shied away from processed foods. Raw food buying clubs continue to pop up all over the country in record numbers. This has meant an explosion in government granted search and seizure warrants for raw food products.
Vonderplanitz hopes the high-profile raid on his facility will only help the farm and consumer sovereignty movement by bringing national attention to what he sees as regulatory tyranny.
Rawesome Foods continues to function undeterred and its 1,600 members are fiercely loyal to their organization as evidenced by a waiver signed by each member upon entering the premises which states in part: “I reject the government's rules for pasteurization, homogenization; all these things on my food. And I want E. coli, listeria, salmonella in my food.”