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It’s Time to Give the FDA a Dose of Its Own Medicine: Five Suggestions for How the Maryland Food Club Can Fight Back (and How the Rest of Us Can Help)

Posted on Monday, May 2nd, 2011 at 1:14 pm by David E. Gumpert

Following my previous post, Fish in the Water expresses the emotional extremes many of us feel about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s latest assault on our food freedoms. “As a member of the aforementioned club, I have just been absolutely devastated this week, and am on pins and needles to see what happens next.”

Yes, what does happen next? Well, the members of the Maryland food club that was targeted by the FDA for an undercover operation to apparently make a case for unlawful interstate sales of raw milk by Pennsylvania farm owner Dan Allgyer, need to make a decision. They have two basic choices:

Aajonus Vonderplanitz speaking last fall in Los Angeles. (photo by Jennifer Sharpe)

1. They can cower in fear, maybe abandon the farmer who is risking his farm and his freedom to supply them with fresh nutrient-dense food…

2. Or they can stand up, tall and proud, against the crude effort to instill fear, and fight back.

I very much hope they choose the second option…not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because the FDA needs to be taught that there’s a price to be paid for using police-state enforcement tactics to interfere with private farmer-consumer food agreements…so it will think twice before embarking on this kind of adventurism anytime soon. I also think the FDA outrage offers Maryland food club members a huge opportunity to educate legislators, judges, and the public at large about the seriousness of the FDA’s actions and the terrible precedent that could be established trashing private contractual food rights.

In this sense, I diverge from the earlier advice of Mark McAfee of Organic Pastures Dairy Co., telling Dan Allgyer to settle with the FDA and avoid a lengthy court battle. McAfee’s advice was based on his own experience being indicted for interstate sales of raw milk, but in his case, he actually was selling raw milk. The Allgyer case is much different, involving consumers in a direct contractual relationship with their farmer. Thus, it would be a huge concession of fundamental rights for Allgyer to capitulate to the FDA.

One reason this situation offers such an opportunity is that there isn’t even a hint of a food safety problem. This food club has been in operation for nearly five years, without any kind of illness, from raw milk or any of the eggs, beef, and chicken the members buy. The club’s experience gives lie to the FDA’s statement in its court filing seeking a permanent injunction against Allgyer: “Unpasteurized mik and milk products contain a wide variety of harmful bacteria…all of which may cause illness and possibly death.”

Aajonus Vonderplanitz, the California nutritionist, whose organization, Right to Choose Healthy Food, oversees the contractual arrangements of the Maryland food club targeted by the FDA, seems to be of the same mindset. He tells me the FDA’s move in federal district court in Pennsylvania, is intended “to scare more farmers and consumers,” and he’s not buying in.

“I look forward to court events. I will write the briefs that Dan and I will file claiming non-jurisdiction, fraud and harassment.”

But public involvement is a critical component for eventual legal success, he says. “I would love to have more people aware and watching. More people watching is likely to make the judge more honest and law-abiding.”

In that spirit of creating more public awareness, here are five of my own unsolicited suggestions for how the Maryland food club can fight back:

* Recruit some serious legal talent. Vonderplanitz will need legal help to joust with the Harvard-Yale-Princeton Law School types at the U.S. Department of Justice who will be handling this case. That will cost money. If each of the hundreds of Maryland food club members puts up just a few hundred dollars, they can buy some pretty impressive legal help. There have to be experienced lawyers out there who would love the public exposure that will result from defending an Amish farmer set upon by obsessive and arrogant government regulators and prosecutors.

* Let your U.S. House and Senate representatives know about the FDA’s outrage, and urge them to express disapproval. They control the FDA’s purse strings, and can make a difference. They likely don’t know what’s been going on here. Now is the time to inform them.

* Let the White House know about your outrage. The FDA and the Department of Justice are both directed by President Barack Obama. He likely didn’t know about the case specifically, but there are some highly placed administration officials who must be aware. This kind of intensive year-plus undercover investigative operation against the reclusive Amish community has to be approved at high levels before it goes forward. One relatively low-level bureaucrat like John Sheehan, the FDA’s dairy director, can’t by himself make something like this happen; many others have to sign off. Obama’s handlers need to know that many people are outraged.

* Improve vetting procedures. Yes, I know the horse is out of the barn at the Maryland food club, but you never know if the feds will make additional efforts to plant spies. Plus, they may well have other food clubs under surveillance. Unfortunately, food clubs need to tighten their processes, which should include requiring member prospects to show drivers licenses and even credit cards to confirm their identitities, thus making it it tougher for people with aliases to get in. Moreover, it’s helpful to do Google searches on everyone. One buying club I know spotted an FDA operative this way, before she could sign her membership papers.

* Pack the courthouse when Dan Allgyer’s case comes up for hearings in Pennsylvania. As Wayne Craig says in his comment following my previous post, “We need to shine a very bright light on the resources and time FDA is using against raw milk vs other priorities.” Lots of people showing up with high-priced legal representation helps focus the judge’s attention.

The FDA was obviously trying to send a strong message of intimidation and fear. It’s time for those of us who value food rights to send an even stronger message that its strong-arm tactics won’t be tolerated. Farmers can’t do it alone.

Read the original post on The Complete Patient.

Raw Milk Revolution David E. Gumpert is the author of
The Raw Milk Revolution
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