Built-In Quality

By Steve Bemis

I heard National Public Radio’s Diane Rehm Show this morning (wemu.org) when she interviewed the new FDA Commissioner. One of the interesting themes the Commissioner repeated was his preference to have quality incorporated into foods rather than to rely on inspection or other follow-up risk management technologies to “catch” problems.

This, of course, is a mantra of modern manufacturing (especially in the car business), so that quality can be increased at the same time as inspection costs are decreased. This makes sense for an agency like FDA. They can have businesses certify their own manufacturing processes and thereby minimize inspection by both the business and the agency.

I think this is an ideal argument against pasteurization and in favor of fresh unprocessed milk. Our argument would depend on positioning the production of milk separate from the pasteurizing process. In other words, define the pasteurizing process as an after-the-fact quality control effort (which it is), rather than have it included as part of the manufacturing process itself (pretty revolting to talk about “manufacturing” milk, but that is the industrialized food paradigm).

As we try to deal with FDA, sometimes the dogma log-jam can be broken most easily by appealing to the top guy, particularly if he or she is new on the job, and speak to their own particular new way of looking at things.

The phrase, “fresh unprocessed milk,” by the way, is the preference of Ted Beals, MD, retired University of Michigan Medical School professor for over twenty years and retired head of pathology for eight years for the US Veterans Administration. He uses this phrase to distinguish milk produced so as not to require pasteurization, from raw milk which requires pasteurization.

Stephen T. Bemis
Taylor, Michigan

Letter to the Editor of Wise Traditions, published in Fall 2007 issue

Steve Bemis is a retired corporate attorney and farms hay in Michigan for local farmers. For the last several years, Steve has worked with the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund advocating for greater access to local foods, especially raw milk. He is a founding Board Member of the Fund and also serves on the Farm-to-Consumer Foundation Board.

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