FDA Bans Raw Camel Milk

By Pete Kennedy, Esq.

Hump-Back Dairys, the largest camel milk producer in the U.S., has stopped shipping raw milk for human consumption across state lines. In a January 6 letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Sam Hostetler, owner of Hump-Back Dairys in Miller, Missouri, informed the agency that he was willing to comply with a federal regulation (1240.61) prohibiting the transport in interstate commerce intended for direct human consumption of raw milk and raw milk products (other than cheese aged 60 days). On December 19, 2016, FDA sent Hostetler a warning letter stating that he had violated the regulation by shipping raw camel milk across state lines “in finished form for human consumption.” FDA’s position is that the interstate ban applies to all raw milk, including camel milk.

Hostetler probably produced a majority of the raw camel milk consumed in this country. The cessation of his interstate shipments has left thousands of people scrambling for a new source of camel milk, notably parents of children with autism. Given the lack of camel producers in this country, it is probable that many of these parents, as well as others, will not be able to find another source.

Walid Abdul-Wahab, the founder of the largest camel milk distribution company in the U.S., estimates that well over ten thousand autistic children in the country consume raw camel milk; only a small percentage of that number drink pasteurized camel milk. Walid said that a survey conducted by his California-based company, which sells direct to consumers, found that about 40 percent of his customers are parents of autistic children. At a price of $18 per pint for raw camel milk, it’s obvious the parents believe the milk has medicinal benefits; the science backs them up. Possibly more than any other raw dairy product, camel milk presents the case for why the interstate ban does just the opposite of protecting the public health and should be repealed. It is also the best illustration of the cruelty of the ban; access to a product that alleviates the symptoms of the condition known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is, in effect, denied to parents and children who are contending with the disease.

Christina Adams is a media professional and camel milk advocate living in California who has a son with autism. For twelve years she has consulted with international doctors and scientists while writing and speaking about the benefits of giving autistic children camel milk (which she considers a good nutrition source for people who can’t tolerate regular milks, a common condition in autism and food-intolerant populations).

A report by Adams on the results of treating her son’s autism with camel milk was published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.1 That is not the only medical publication with an article on the benefits of raw camel milk. In 2014 the World Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences published an article entitled “A Review on Medicinal Properties of Camel Milk” that stated, “Autistic children drinking camel milk have had amazing improvements in their behavior and diets.”2 A 2015 medical journal review stated that camel milk is safe and effective for children3 and a 2016 review stated that camel milk was proven to show efficacy for various diseases including autism, diabetes, food allergies, metal toxicity and more.4

According to Adams, the benefits of raw camel milk for many autistic children include:

  • Increased motor planning and spatial awareness;
  • Increased self-direction and executive functioning;
  • Increased language, often with emotional content;
  • Increased cognition, awareness and generalization;
  • Greater empathy;
  • Better sleep;
  • Increased growth and needed weight gain;
  • Resolution of skin issues;
  • Formed stools, lack of bloating;
  • Calmness;
  • Decreased sensory issues;
  • Ability to tolerate more carbohydrates and sugars; and
  • Decreased behavior problems.

Due to U.S. health regulations, it is difficult to import camel milk and to import camels into this country. Many camel milk proponents believe the regulations are too strict but in the short run, the best hope to meet the demand for raw camel milk is Hostetler’s dairy; the FDA warning letter put an end to that source of supply for people outside Missouri. Pasteurized camel milk and camel milk powder is available around the U.S., but the likelihood is that most parents purchasing raw camel milk from Hump-Back Dairys believe that neither product will be as effective in improving the symptoms of their autistic children. Why can’t the FDA honor their medical or food freedom of choice?

Adams says, “Properly pasteurized camel milk still has great value as an alternative milk source but raw camel milk is a special category that needs protecting. After all, fresh camel milk is a food used around the world.”

In particular, a study of the effects of camel milk on behavior in children with ASD stated, “A significant therapeutic effect of raw camel milk is decreased on boiling or pasteurization. Camel milk has good bacterial and antiviral activity thus if [it] is used raw, there are less chances of transmission of infection. This concept is consistent with the historic belief that natural substances play an important role in preventative and therapeutic treatment.”5

Adams receives mail about camel milk every day from throughout this country and around the world. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that camels have become the third-fastest growing livestock in the world.

As far as is known, there isn’t a single foodborne illness outbreak in this country that has been attributed to the consumption of raw camel milk. FDA has not made any case that raw camel milk is a threat to the public health.

Once again, the interstate raw milk ban has prevented people from accessing what they believe best for their own health. It’s time to get rid of the ban. Massie will be introducing legislation this session of Congress to repeal the interstate ban. Please support this important bill.

Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund will be sending out action alerts on this legislation once it is introduced. Please take action to support your food choice and the food choices of those who cannot stand up for themselves.

REFERENCES

1. Christina M. Adams, MFA. Global Advances in Health and Medicine. “Patient Report: Autism Spectrum Disorder Treated with Camel Milk.” 2013 Nov; 2(6): 78-80. Accessed 1/15/2017 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3865381/

2. A.R. Mullaicharam. World Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences. “A Review on Medicinal Properties of Camel Milk.” Muscat, Oman: Oman Medical College, Pharmacy Department. 2014 Mar; 2(3): 237-242. Accessed 1/15/2017 at http://www.wjpsonline.org/view_issue.php?title=A-review-on-medicinal-properties-of-Camel-milk

3. S. Zibaee, S.M. Hosseini, M. Yousefi, A. Taghipour, M.A. Kiani, and M.R. Noras. Electronic Physician. “Nutritional and Therapeutic Characteristics of Camel Milk in Children: A Systematic Review.” 2015 Nov; 7(7): 1523-1528. Accessed 1/17/2017 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4700900/

4. T. Mihic, D. Rainkie, K.J. Wilby, and S.A. Pawluk. Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine. “The Therapeutic Effects of Camel Milk: A Systematic Review of Animal and Human Trials.” 2016 Oct; 21(4): NP110-26. Accessed 1/17/2017 at http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/2156587216658846

5. Laila Y. Al-Ayahdhi, Dost Muhammad Halepoto, Abdul M. Al-Dress, Yasmine Mitwali, and Rana Zainah. Journal of the College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan. “Behavioral Benefits of Camel Milk in Subjects with Autism Spectrum Disorder.” 2015; 25(11): 819-823. Accessed 1/17/2107 at https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Behavioral-Benefits-of-Camel-Milk-in-Subjectswith-Al-Ayadhi-Halepoto/a5e2ca5f2181210dcc2aff8d-11814fa446a8e611.

This article first appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of Wise Traditions in Food, Farming, and the Healing Arts, the Quarterly Journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation.

Pete Kennedy

Pete Kennedy is an attorney from Sarasota, Florida and president of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (farmtoconsumer.org). He compiled the state milk laws posted at realmilk.com. He advises many farmers and members about legal issues surrounding raw milk.