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Whole Foods Market Drops Raw Milk

Lemonade

Creative Commons License photo credit: Lucius Kwok

In True Form, McAfee Makes Lemonade Out of Lemons

by Kimberly Hartke, Publicist Weston A. Price Foundation

Mark McAfee, owner of the largest raw dairy in the nation, Organic Pastures, dropped me a surprising email last night. Whole Foods Market, with six hours notice, is dropping raw milk products from its dairy case. Not only in Mark’s state of California, but in Washington state, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. They already removed raw milk from Florida stores, where it was labeled and sold as “pet milk.”

Pennsylvania Whole Foods stores had only recently started carrying raw milk.

Apparently it is a national corporate insurance policy issue, which they are committed to working out. Whole Foods does expect to be able to re-stock store shelves with the product once they have resolved the issue with insurers.

The situation has left raw dairymen to scramble and find new points of sale for their product.

Regulatory Climate May Put the Squeeze on the Market

And, after what has been happening in Wisconsin and other states lately, it seems that there may be some FDA involvement in this corporate “decision.” Unlike ground beef, spinach, peanuts, peppers, and the other obvious sources of mass foodborne illness, the FDA singles out raw milk as “inherently dangerous,” in spite of a lack of evidence. This hostile regulatory climate seems to inform corporate decisions, makes insurers leery and also directs the actions the state regulators.

When Florida stores stopped carrying “pet milk” callers to Whole Foods Corporate were told everything from, “it was a profit driven decision” to “call the USDA if you want more information.”

A blog reader wrote me earlier this week that several Washington state dairies, Jackie’s Jersey Milk and Dungeness Creamery are experiencing business disruptions at the hands the state health officials with recall and shutdowns. She sees this as a “pattern of harassment.”

Wisconsin farm share programs are under a state of siege, because of the harsh bureaucratic interpretation of statute that began suddenly last summer.

Organic Pastures Responds with Optimism and Flexiblity, Offers Customer Hotline

Organic-Pastures-Claravale-Dairy-Signs

Signs Tell How to Find Milk

As a courtesy to their customers, Whole Foods is placing signs in the dairy case, to let people know where to find their favorite farm fresh dairy brand. The Organic Pastures sign has their 1-877-RAWMILK customer service hotline. The Claravale Farm sign appears to have other health food stores listed. This photo was taken for me by Christine Chessen, founder of CREMA, the California Raw Milk Association, at a Bay area Whole Foods Market location where she shops.

Here is the official statement, released by Organic Pastures late last night:

On Friday, March 12, 2010, with 6 hours notice; Whole Foods corporate offices notified Organic Pastures and all other raw milk producers nationally, that they would not be able to carry any raw dairy products.  This decision affected the states of CA, WA, PA, and CT.  They told us that they love and support raw milk in California but their insurance company would not insure them until a nation-wide food safety plan was developed for all raw dairy producers.  Not a single pathogen, complaint or food safety issue has caused this to occur… this is simply an issue of corporate insurance not allowing a vibrant whole food to be sold.

Organic Pastures already has an active food safety plan and we have submitted it to Whole Foods.  This food safety plan has been in affect for over a year and was developed in cooperation with Whole Foods Food Safety Auditors, Dr. Ron Hull, PhD and Dr. Ted Beals, MD (Internationally renowned food safety experts), our extensive experience producing raw milk for over 10 years and industry laboratories.  However, our compliance with all State and Federal codes and regulations and our active food safety plan was not enough to prevent Whole Foods from removing all raw dairy products from the shelf… effective 8AM Saturday, March 13, 2010.

Experts Agree, Food Safety is in Everyone’s Best Interest

Christine Chessen, of California Raw Milk Association points to the need for food safety plans for all raw milk producers. She fears that a raw dairy not doing proper testing, can be the downfall of others who are producing safe milk and using food safety measures. She suspects a case in Connecticut which involved a large multi-million dollar lawsuit may be at the root of the insurance carrier’s skittishness.

The Weston A. Price Foundation recommends knowing the source of your milk, if you choose to consume raw dairy, make sure the cows are tested for animal diseases, the milk is tested for pathogens and that the farm is feeding only grass and hay, and that the cows are on pasture, with plenty of sunshine.

Mark McAfee is familiar with challenges, and he rises above them like no one I have ever known. Here is what he has to say:

“This may appear to be a anti-raw milk move by Whole Foods. A deeper look exposes something perhaps very positive. Our best advocates and biggest supporters work for Whole Foods Market. They were the first store to carry OPDC products in CA in 2002. Walter Robb, COO has been a courageous and a steadfast consumer and fighter for raw milk in California with powerful testimony at the state legislature during SB 201 hearings in 2008.”

“In the end, it is hoped that this event will usher in a Whole Foods and OPDC led set of Raw Milk Safety Standards  to assist ( not scare or intimidate ) the raw milk producers nationally to rise above liability concerns and have the highest level of confidence in raw milk safety. From all challenges can come very good and welcomed and needed progress. This is one of those times.”

“Every raw milk producer needs a food safety plan. Each one will be different depending on their conditions….but everyone needs to have a RAMP program (Risk Analysis and Management Program, takes into account the human immune system, it doesn’t rely on kill steps like a HACCP program). This is reality and with a RAMP program everyone can sleep better at night including consumers. This takes away just one more thing that the FDA or anyone else can say negative about raw milk. Whole Foods and OPDC in partnership established a RAMP program at OPDC more than a year ago. This program has allowed OPDC to pass the intensive, less than 10 coliform, standards and other measures of cleanliness. We are working around the clock with Whole Foods to set this standard and bring the raw milk back to the shelves quickly.  In the books of history this seemingly negative event, should be counted as a bench mark and new day for America and food safety. RAMP to the future. RAMP is a tool, not to be feared, but like a tractor or milking machine… a tool to be used to make our lives better, more secure and healthier.”

In another email, Mark adds enthusiastically,

We are professional organic lemonade makers. This box of short notice lemons is already making some great juice.  When ever there is a shake-up…the changes result in higher sales and more support for raw milk.”

It is the remarkable resilience of men like McAfee, that are ultimately going to win the day for raw milk.

Kimberly-Hartke

Kimberly Hartke

Kimberly Hartke is a raw dairy consumer, and a volunteer chapter leader and publicist for the Weston A. Price Foundation, a nutrition education non-profit.

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Comments

  1. Kimberly Hartke says:

    Mark just called me and said that it seems this disruption is temporary, and that raw milk may be back in the dairy case within a matter of days or weeks. Meanwhile, he gave me his Customer Service hotline number, where Californians can call for information on the closest buying club or retail store where farm fresh milk can be purchased. 1-877-RAW-MILK.

  2. Sylvia Onusic says:

    Thanks, Kim, for keeping us posted on the latest events in the Fresh Milk world.

    I cant wait to meet Mark at the “Second International Raw Milk Symposium” in Madison, Wisconsin on April 10 of this year. He is a true Farm Fresh Milk Warrior.

  3. Thanks for filling in the blanks, Kimberly. I heard about this last night and blogged about it this morning. Glad to hear it may be resolved at some point. It does seem to bear the fingerprints of the FDA. I’ll update my blog with this post.

    Thanks,
    Jeanmarie
    .-= Jeanmarie´s last blog ..New Theme: Titan =-.

  4. Here in Colorado our raw milk rights are fabulous. We have to belong to a cow share but I think that’s the best idea. Know your farmer, visit the farm, see your cow.

    I am not a advocate for mass raw milk in grocery stores. I think it’s a really bad idea. I think you should have to seek out raw milk. People will start blaming raw milk for their ailments, lawyers will get involved and lawsuits will start. Then there will be a federal law against raw milk.

    We Americans are just too sue happy. A few, I believe, will ruin it for the rest of us. Mark my words…

  5. I spoke with an employee (John) of Whole Foods Market today, March 13, asking why they had no raw milk products on the shelf. He said the issue wasn’t really clear to him but he thought it involved the standardizing of raw milk products and said they would not be carrying the products until further notice. At first I was upset about it. I’m aware of the raw milk battles taking place in different states. John said he was also unhappy that Whole Foods had dropped raw milk because he used it to make cheese. But after a few moments, I realized the problem had a simple solution. I had just, a day earlier, ordered several bottles of raw colostrum directly from Organic Pastures Dairy to have it delivered right to my door. I have ordered raw butter before (a bulk order of several tubs) and the cost of the product plus shipping was actually less than I would have paid at Whole Foods. Organic Pastures can ship raw dairy directly to California residents. John was so happy to hear about this because he didn’t know that it could be done. Yes it can. You can find a buying club, or another store, or you can just make a phone call and it comes to you!

  6. It is very important for anyone buying raw milk products to take responsibility for that choice. I eat many foods raw that most people (including my doctor) would consider dangerous. Raw wildcaught fish, raw organs from grassfed beef, raw eggs, and all types of raw milk products. I have been doing this for many, many years and I have never been sick from any of it. In fact, I have been much, much healthier. I do take complete responsibility as an informed consumer and if I were to get sick would never think of blaming someone else for my choices. Know your rancher, your dairy, your fisherman, your farmer, and anyone else you buy food from. Keep the responsibility where it belongs. With you.

  7. The RAMP concept sounds great but we do know that OPDC has outsourced product for butter in the last year and so the RAMP model begs the question: which part of the dairy line offers safety standards for consumers? OPDC has a colostrum line as well that is actually unregulated (no coliform standard, no monthly state testing, no apparent rules against outsourcing). If uniform standards are going to be formed, they should apply to the whole dairy line not simply raw milk in final finished form. This is a key source of misinformation and confusion among consumers in California.

    Amanda

  8. Thank you for sharing this story, Kimberly. I agree that standardizing of raw milk may cause more problems than it would solve. It would surely be the culprit of lawsuits and large legal battles from individuals who would claim it caused illness and disease. But I also agree that the best way to support the raw milk movement is to seek out your local farmers and support them, just like I am doing in my own state. In Idaho where I live, you would think there would be more demand for raw milk as it is definitely a state known for agriculture. But here there are still only a handful of dairies known for producing clean, grass-fed raw milk.

    No matter, I will continue to support my local farm, Saint John’s Organic Farm in Emmett, Idaho – who like Mark McAfee, has repeatedly gone above and beyond to provide an outstanding product, who has repeatedly received the highest scores in testing of their raw milk (above all the pasteurized milk in our state, and baffled the State Department of Agriculture), and upholds the highest standards of sustainability in their farming methods.
    .-= Raine Saunders´s last blog ..Who’s Right? Finding the Truth About Medical Knowledge, Science, Health, and Nutrition =-.

  9. Jonathan says:

    This does not seem like a coincidence to me. My co-op and another farm here in Michigan just had stopped delivering milk too. Something is up, and I don’t like it. Lord, help us. Kyrie eleison!

  10. This morning Jon announced he wants our own dairy cow. With challenges like this, it is looking like a good idea! Thanks for keeping us posted on this important story, Kimberly.
    .-= Cathy Payne´s last blog ..ONL059 Nature’s Harmony Farm Tour =-.

  11. > I do take complete responsibility as an informed consumer and if I were to get sick would never think of blaming someone else for my choices<

    Emily, I believe you would never blame someone for your choices regarding raw food/dairy. Neither would I. Neither Kelly the Kitchen, Cheeseslave, Kimberly, Food Renegade and thousands of others who enjoy and are grateful for our raw dairy. But there will be those people who WILL blame someone for their choice. And then the rest of us will be punished. Raw milk will become illegal in the US.

    Or big dairy farmers who feed their cows crap and confine them will want to get in on the raw milk craze and will want to sell their crap milk in groceries stores and PEOPLE WILL GET SICK!

    I will never be convinced that raw milk in grocery stores is a good idea. Never.

  12. If you think raw milk is unhealthy, don’t drink it. There are a lot of people who like the taste and health benefits of raw milk and have been drinking it for years with no ill effects. I’m not sure why a few people have such an ax to grind about raw milk, but I’m offended that they think it’s their right to deny others access it. Thank goodness they aren’t vegetarians and want to deny the rest of us the right to buy and eat meat!

  13. Kimberly Hartke says:

    To tell Whole Foods Market that you miss your raw milk, here are contact instructions from blog reader, Stan Fishman (thanks Stan!):

    What I had to do was go to the general site at http://www.wholefoods.com,
    and do the following:

    1. scroll down to the lower right hand corner and click “customer service”
    2.scroll down to “Contact us by email”
    3. Choose “company policy” from the dropdown menu
    At that point, you can click next and will have an opportunity to send them a comment.

  14. I have emailed Whole Foods and told them that I will not set foot in their stores until raw milk is back on the shelves. I invite everybody else to do the same.

    This is really important, because the dairies that produce raw milk for Whole Foods are being hurt by this, and they need our support.

    Let’s tell Whole Foods that we will not shop there until raw milk is back on the shelves.
    .-= Stanley A Fishman´s last blog ..A Plea for Naturally Fed Pork =-.

  15. And I will never shop at my local Whole Foods if they decide to carry raw milk. I go to a homestead and get my raw dairy.

  16. There’s something seriously wrong with a government that allows stores to sell tobacco products but not raw milk.
    .-= Crimson Wife´s last blog ..Required Reading for Toyota Owners! =-.

  17. Crimson, never try to figure out our government. It’s futile….

  18. I think Whole Foods handled this situation pretty well.. I actually went to my local Whole Foods this weekend, and think I saw raw milk for sale, so apparently they fixed things up already?

    @Crimson, yeah our government, and society in general really is in a sad state of affairs. Alcohol and cigars are freely sold, but they’re the opiate for the masses, ppl would literally go insane if they didn’t have these forms of escapism. I dunno anyone who uses raw milk to escape their sad life 😉

  19. jim elizondo says:

    How is it that you can buy raw meat at the grocery store but raw milk is not allowed? Is not raw meat a danger? Ha, we know you buy it raw and then, if you want to you can cook it or do a tartar. Why is it that only raw milk is targeted and not raw fish, raw vegetables, etc.. Think about it. Jim

Trackbacks

  1. […] Mark McAfee, and apparently there is hope the issue with WFM’s insurers will be resolved, see here for her post. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Scoring real food.Bread Breaking Ceremony Marks […]

  2. […] Kimberly Hartke has got some real dope on the matter from Mark McAfee– an ARMi co-director– who is making lemonade out of the lemons in this major raw milk shakeup of the markets. […]

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