- - Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The food police are growing bolder. SWAT teams in body armor with automatic weapons descend on farmers markets and local co-ops looking for illicit goods. They’re not looking for crack or heroin, guns or grenades. These aren’t skirmishes in the War on Drugs. These troops are going after dangerous contraband — raw, unpasteurized milk, just as it comes out of a cow.

Pasteurization is a process of heating the milk to kill bacteria, including dangerous strains of salmonella and listeria. But consumers of natural, or raw, milk think the process kills nutrients as well and that farms with healthy cows and sanitary conditions produce safe raw milk. Rep. Thomas Massie, Kentucky Republican, recently introduced two “milk freedom” bills that would call off the cops and enable consumers to decide for themselves which milk they prefer.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) bans the sale of raw milk across state lines. Fourteen states ban the sale of raw milk outside the farms where the milk is produced. The federal government goes to its usual extremes to enforce the FDA mandate.

Amish farms are a favorite target. Undercover agents of the sort who usually wear a wire to expose the mob or corrupt politicians pose as customers to entrap peaceful farmers into selling the forbidden milk. These missions keep the G-men busy without actually putting them at risk. The Amish never shoot back.

In Venice, Calif., an alphabet soup of enforcement agencies, including the FDA, Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sent in a SWAT team the other day with guns drawn to raid

a health food market and arrested three people for the sale of unpasteurized dairy products. The complaint alleging wrongdoing included details of an extensive sting operation set up by police to purchase raw goat’s milk.

Now several members of Congress want to intervene. “As a producer of grass-fed beef,” says Mr. Massie, “I am familiar with some of the difficulties small farmers face when marketing fresh food directly to consumers … . The federal government should not punish farmers for providing customers the food they want, and states should be free to set their own laws regulating food safety.”

Mr. Massie has been joined by Rep. Chellie Pingree, Maine Democrat, who correctly notes that “given how many food scares there have been involving large-scale producers, it just doesn’t make sense to spend money cracking down on small, local farmers who are producing natural raw milk and cheese.”

It’s a sure sign that the government is too big and has too much to do that it expends so much effort to spill raw milk. The public is perfectly capable of deciding whether to drink milk raw or cooked. The SWAT teams should look for evildoers elsewhere.

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