Let’s call it what it is: the “dirty dairy” bill.
California has always been silly about its organic movement. Yet, it’s usually been serious about food safety and public health.
Raw milk is NOT pasteurized. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, more than 1,000 people got sick from raw milk and raw cheese between 1998 and 2005. More than 100 went to the hospital. Two died.
There’s a small market commercial market for raw milk in California—about 40,000 people. (Or 1/10th of one percent of all California consumers)
But with just two raw milk producers in the state, the troubled Organic Pastures of Fresno County and Claravale Farms on San Benito County, the raw milk market is big enough. OP sells to 300 retail stores, including Whole Foods.
Hang in there; we will get to the “dirty dairy” bill in a minute.
Sacramento health officials are very much aware of the destruction caused by Organic Pastures. It is implicated in both E. coli and Campylobacter outbreaks and a Listeria recall. Attorney Bill Marler represents a couple of OP’s former customers, both HUS victims with one for sure requiring a transplant.
So, California, being a serious state, opted to regulate raw milk with a scientifically measurable standard of 10 coliform bacteria per milliliter of raw milk.
The “dirty dairies” howled and went into action, filing a lawsuit against the new state regulation. They lost. Now, the “dirty dairies” are commanding their minions, specifically Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, to introduce the “dirty dairy” bill to lift the safety standard.
The limits are there to make sure dairies are clean because dirty dairies are more likely to breed pathogens. The California Department of Food & Agriculture views the standards as “reasonable and attainable.”Current regulations allow the dairies to use independent labs and only if specific harmful pathogens are found and verified could raw milk production be halted.
Not good enough for Dean’s “dirty dairy “ bill, which would eliminate bacteria limits.
The crux of what he is saying is that what raw milk customers want to buy is the bacterium cocktail that only a “dirty dairy” can produce.
All those dairy cases at Whole Foods can get pretty confusing. Lots of people are just grabbing for a bottle of milk, and are not aware they might be buying a "bacterium cocktail." Today California is in business to protect consumers. Tomorrow, it might be in business to protect Dean’s dirty dairies.