Special FDA agents and investigators from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration aggressively interrogated two young female employees of Organic Pastures Dairy Company, the nation's largest raw milk producer, with questions focusing on the dairy's interstate sales of raw colostrum and raw milk for pet food.
The surprise interrogations took place after work in their private homes on the evening of March 19, just hours after Judge Tobias of the Hollister Superior Court issued a temporary restraining order against the California Department of Food and Agriculture. The state court ruling blocked enforcement of California's anti-raw milk AB 1735, which mandates unnecessarily stringent standards for beneficial coliform bacteria in raw milk. The temporary restraining order represents an important legal victory for raw milk producers and consumers in California and throughout the nation.
The federal agents threatened one employee with arrest if questions were not fully and truthfully answered about Organic Pastures' order fulfillment practices. Her answers reflected information that is readily available at the company's website, www.organicpastures.com. The other employee was told FDA would "make it worth her while" to "wear a wire" and record conversations with Organic Pastures president Mark McAfee. The employee refused the offer. "We are like a family, I would never do that to a family member," she said, reflecting her close relationship with the McAfee family.
Both employees were served subpoenas to appear April 3 for a secret grand jury investigation. In 2003, Organic Pastures received a confirmation letter from Larry Childers of the FDA, which clearly stated that interstate sales of raw colostrum are not regulated because colostrum is not milk. The FDA website notes that "pet food" requires no pre-market approval and is unregulated by the FDA.
The Bronx Zoo in New York and other zoos regularly order raw colostrum and raw dairy products from Organic Pastures to save babies of endangered species and keep other animals healthy. Orders stipulate that the milk and colostrum must be raw because pasteurized versions make them ill. Many veterinarians recommend raw milk for cats and dogs.
"FDA has gone on the record as 'hating raw milk' in any form," says Mark McAfee, founder and president of Organic Pastures. "The harassment of our employees and grand jury investigation is just the latest round in the government vendetta against Nature's perfect food. If Organic Pastures is doing something illegal, all FDA needs to do is come and tell us and we will make the necessary changes to our labels and procedures."Organic Pastures will be represented in this action by the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund. Membership in the Fund helps support the defense of raw milk and direct farm-to-consumer sales. For further information visit www.ftcldf.org.