Wholesome Food Not Allowed?

Sunni's picture

David Gumpert has become something of a hero to me—not because his blog focuses on the healthful properties of raw milk, but rather because he actively seeks to understand, and to present, all the players’ perspectives in the complicated regulatory dance that has developed around it. Recently, he’s focused on challenges in Wisconsin—an area that doesn’t make the news frequently, but which is suffering economically along with much of this country.

Generally speaking, the foodocrats shy away from speaking with Gumpert, on or off the record. If their primary motivation truly is the safety and well-being of the populace, why the reticence? After all, most people like to feel cared for. As it gets harder and harder to keep things “behind the scenes”, one possibility presents itself: in some of these cases, emails and other communications have surfaced that show some of the crackdowns are coordinated efforts to attack certain producers or organizations. Recently, buyers clubs have become a focal point. Wisconsin law is murky on the legality of selling raw milk, which further allows the enforcers to tighten and loosen their grip, as they desire.

The Trautman Family Farm, which is one of the targeted farms in Wisconsin, looks to be a showplace for healthful practices for all its animals. Yet, according to Gumpert’s report, at the same time the regulators starting pressuring the Trautmans, their milk processor stopped service, ostensibly because they didn’t want their reputation tarnished by proximity to raw milk. Processors, like distributors, enjoy a virtual monopoly in many areas of the country, so finding another can be next to impossible.

In the wake of the recent wave of food recalls, most of which involved agribusiness products and/or practices, more people are starting to question aspects of that business model (at the very least). As economic conditions continue to pressure many, more are turning to small-scale gardening and animal husbandry ... and some, inspired by their success, attempt to capitalize on it via farmers markets or other outlets for their bounty. If the local politicians are happy about such developments, it would appear that the foodocrats don’t share in it. I think that is largely because those who believe in government control simply cannot see how a system can remain outside someone’s control and thrive. There must be rules, and permission slips, and forms and fees ...

In another post, Gumpert briefly mentions the differing belief systems as a fundamental challenge. Relatedly, the question of “which side cares more” about people’s health arose. Both claim to, of course: the regulators assert that laws are necessary because some individuals can become ill after consuming unprocessed foods; the other side’s motivations are more complex, but probably most would agree that in general, natural foods are preferable to processed, and that each individual should be able to make his own choices on what to eat.

It appears to me that in the regulatory world, the possible preferences/needs of a few vastly outweigh the benefits that many would get from consuming more wholesome foods. This skewed effect is cloaked under mantras such as “food safety” and “protecting the vulnerable”. As more individuals see through those shabby lines, and begin to seek out wholesome foods for themselves, the efforts to push them back into the herd intensifies.

Another observation came to this geeky foodie while thinking about this situation: Many of these laws are based on older science. Pasteurization, for example, is now known not to be a universal panacea—further, some evidence suggests that it render foods less nutritious. For example, pasteurization destroys the lactase enzyme that is present in raw milk—and it destroys probiotic bacteria as well as potentially harmful ones. Pasteurization was a good idea back in the days before refrigeration was widespread; but now that it’s widely available, and now that we know much more about nutrition issues, is it necessary? My answer is this: as long as government agencies codify safety practices in handling and processing of milk that allow a known quantity of contaminants to be present, pasteurization of milk that goes through many hands before reaching store shelves is probably a good idea. But if a farmer does it all himself—as safely and responsibly as he can—there’s no need for such overkill (pardon the pun).

And really, that encapsulates much of my frustration with so-called safety regulations: they are rooted in the past, and once on the books, become an anchor that dramatically slows progress even as science reveals more to us. It is especially sad to see the proliferation of food regulations that keep so many individuals from eating and benefiting from the wholesome (but not risk free—for nothing is 100% risk free) foods that human bodies have consumed for millennia before modern times.

For anyone interested, Trautman Farm is near Stoughton, WI, which is outside of Madison. I think they deserve some support. Also, David Gumpert has a book fresh off the presses; it’s apparently based on his blog, but as I’ve not read the book I don’t know how different it is from the blog.


I don't think that health is even on the priority radar when processes like pasteurization become embedded in the production chain. There are large capital investments required for pasteurization, irradiation, and other "health-protecting" technologies that only the big boys can afford. The little guys are forced out or are forced to sell to the big guys, giving them a monopoly.

I believe there are less than a handful of milk companies in the entire United States. That's a ton of business for a very few companies, and I guarantee they lobby for all kinds of "health" procedures that make it impossible for competition to exist from smaller companies.

And as far as milk is concerned, the pasteurized garbage they sell is much dirtier and far inferior to raw milk.

Big $$$ using government guns to restrict competition for the protection of the public. Nothing new here.