FDA Files Lawsuit to Seize Healthy Food

On October 19, 2017, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) filed a complaint with a federal district court in Kansas to seize and condemn around $70,000 of raw camel milk, pasteurized camel milk, raw camel milk colostrum, and raw camel milk kefir.[1] The camel milk products are currently being held at a frozen food warehouse, My Magic Kitchen, located in Kansas City. The Kansas Department of has placed all the products under embargo, prohibiting their movement from the warehouse.

All labels on the frozen products FDA wants to seize bear the name Desert Farms; the Santa Monica, California based company is the largest raw milk distributor in the U.S. According to the complaint, Hump-Back Dairys of Miller, Missouri produced nearly all of the product being held at the warehouse; the dairy is, by far, the largest camel milk producer in the country.

There has been a thirty-year ban on raw dairy products (other than aged raw cheese) in interstate commerce; FDA interprets the ban to extend to raw milk camel products. In December 2016 Samuel Hostetler, the owner of Hump-Back Dairys, received a warning letter from FDA.[2] The letter to Hostetler warned that he was violating the interstate ban by shipping both raw camel milk and raw camel milk products in interstate commerce; Hostetler responded to the warning letter by informing the agency that he would be complying with the federal regulation establishing the ban.

Walid Abdul-Wahab, the president of Desert Farms, also received a warning letter from FDA in September 2016 but the letter did not mention the interstate raw dairy ban; instead the letter accused Desert Farms of violating the law by shipping “new drugs” that were not approved by FDA in interstate commerce.[3] The letter noted that Desert Farms was making health claims on its website and facebook page about how camel milk was being successfully used to treat various diseases, especially autism. The letter warned that the camel milk products were drugs because “they are intended for use in the care, mitigation and treatment of disease”. As such they were “new drugs” that needed approval from FDA before they could be marketed. The FDA approval for new drugs processing can cost in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The FDA suit filed for the seizure and destruction of the camel milk products alleges that Desert Farms’ social media pages (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram) linked to the company’s website contain claims that “demonstrate that the camel milk products are intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of disease, including autism, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, viral infections such as hepatitis, the genetic disorder Machado-Joseph, depression, gastrointestinal disease, heart problems, attention deficit disorder, autoimmune diseases, Hashimoto’s disease and cancer.”[4]

What neither the warning letters nor FDA’s complaint for seizure allege is that the camel milk products are adulterated or a threat to human health. As far as is known there has never been a case of foodborne illness in this country attributed to consumption of camel milk. Destruction of the camel milk products at the warehouse would be an absolute waste of healthy food.

It is estimated there are over 10,000 families with autistic children in the U.S. that purchase raw camel milk; many of these families pay $18 a pint or more for the product. There is a reason for that; parents of autistic children have found that raw camel milk and camel milk products can alleviate the symptoms of the condition known as autism spectrum disorder. The science backs them up [5]; pasteurized camel milk can be effective in alleviating the symptoms of autism as well though not to the same degree.

Earlier this year FDA released an article on its Consumer Updates page titled, “Autism: Beware of Potentially Dangerous Therapies and Products.”[6] In the article FDA warns about taking camel milk as a treatment for autism and autism-related symptoms. When FDA warns about taking a product for a disease, it is often because the product is a threat to the profits of the pharmaceutical industry.

FDA is seeking a court order to destroy over 4,300 8- and 16-ounce bottles of camel milk products; product that can help autistic children cope with their condition. The judge hearing the case has the discretion to release the product to Desert Farms.[7] If Walid Abdul-Wahab shows the court that any health claims are no longer on the Desert Farms website and social media and that he is willing to pasteurize the camel milk (with the interstate ban, he would have no choice if he wants the product released) and label the milk containers accordingly the judge could release the product to Desert Farms. Healthy food like this should not wind up in a landfill.

A court date for a hearing on the seizure petition has not been set yet.

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[1] United States of America v. Camel milk products, et al, Kansas Civil Action No. 17-2609 (2017). Access docket files via Pacer.gov for Case #: 2:17-cv-02609-CM-KGS. Retrieved 11/18/2017 from Justia.com at https://dockets.justia.com/docket/kansas/ksdce/2:2017cv02609/118800

[2] FDA warning letter to Samuel P. Hostetler (DBA) Hump-Back Dairys, dated 12/19/16. Retrieved 11/18/2017 at https://www.fda.gov/ICECI/EnforcementActions/WarningLetters/2016/ucm534108.htm

[3] FDA warning letter to Desert Farms, dated 9/15/16. Retrieved 11/19/2017 at https://www.fda.gov/iceci/enforcementactions/warningletters/2016/ucm524663.htm

[4] United States of America v. Camel milk products, et al

[5] “Casualties of the Raw Milk Ban”, January 17, 2017, Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund website. Retrieved 11/18/2017 at https://www.farmtoconsumer.org/blog/2017/01/17/casualties-raw-milk-ban/

[6] FDA, “Autism: Beware of Potentially Dangerous Therapies and Products”, www.fda.gov updated April 12, 2017; originally published April 25, 2014 (see https://www.actcommunity.ca/resource/3565/). Retrieved 11/18/2017 at https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm394757.htm

[7] United States Code, 21 USC 334(d). Accessible at https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/21/334

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