A Wishlist of Just Laws for Those Who Feed Our Families

At the end of 2017 there were several enforcement actions and investigations underway against raw milk distributors. In a Kansas City district court the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was seeking an order allowing it to seize and destroy $70,000 of camel milk and camel milk products, most of it unpasteurized. Government agencies in four different states were investigating a New Jersey food buyers club in connection with an illness attributed to raw milk consumption. In a separate investigation the New Jersey Department of Health sent cease and desist letters to a number of private residences in that state that were allegedly serving as dropsites for the distribution of raw milk and other nutrient-dense foods.

Out of the three cases, the only illness involved was traced to the administration of a brucellosis vaccine to a cow that resulted in active brucella showing up in the raw milk. In the FDA and New Jersey Department of Health investigations there were no allegations of adulterated raw dairy or other foods being distributed. Still, distributors in all three cases could be subject to criminal and/or civil penalties for distributing food their customers believed best for their health and well-being. As the new year gets underway what laws could be passed to better protect producers and distributors of nutrient-dense foods and improve the chances of those individuals getting justice if the government brings a formal administrative or judicial action against them. Here are some suggestions towards making this happen.

    Jury Nullification
    Jury nullification is the legal concept where the jury has the right to acquit the defendant even if the law points toward guilt if the jury believes that it would be unjust to apply the law given the facts of the case. Jury nullification can take place in either criminal or civil trials. The Alvin Schlangen and Vernon Hershberger trials, respectively in Wisconsin and Minnesota, were jury nullification cases where the juries refused to convict the two for violations of the food and dairy laws even though under the letter of the law either could have been found guilty.

    The U.S Supreme Court has recognized the right of a jury to acquit a defendant when it believes that the application of the law to the facts of the case would be unjust.1 The trouble with jury nullification at the federal level and in nearly all states is that even though the jury has the right to judge the law as well as the facts in a case, judges and defense attorneys are prohibited from informing juries that this right exists. States need to pass laws lifting this prohibition.

    In 2012 the New Hampshire legislature passed a law stating, “In all criminal proceedings the court shall permit the defendant to inform the jury of its right to judge the facts and the application of the law in relation to those facts.” In a 2014 case, State v. Paul2 the New Hampshire Supreme Court held that this law did not impose any obligation on the court to “instruct the jury as to jury nullification.”2,3

      In response to the supreme court’s ruling a bill (HB 133) was introduced in the 2017 New Hampshire legislative session that read: In all criminal proceedings the court shall inform the jury of its right to judge the facts and the application of the law in relation to the facts in controversy. At the request of the defendant or the defendant’s attorney, the court shall instruct the jury as follows: “If you have a reasonable doubt as to whether the state has proved any one or more of the elements of the crime charged, you must find the defendant not guilty. However if you find that the state has proved all the elements of the offense charged beyond a reasonable doubt, you should find the defendant guilty. Even if you find that the state has proved all of the elements of the offense charged beyond a reasonable doubt, you may still find that based upon the facts of this case a guilty verdict will yield an unjust result, and you may find the defendant not guilty.”

    The 2017 New Hampshire bill is the type of legislation that needs to pass to strengthen the juror’s right of nullification. At a minimum it makes no sense that a defense attorney cannot even inform the jury of this right. Jurors should not have to work in the blind as to their nullifying rights as they did in the Hershberger and Schlangen cases where the law prohibited the judge and the defense attorneys from telling the jury directly about jury nullification. Jury nullification is a bedrock of our justice system; jurors should be educated about it.

    Jury Trials in Food Condemnation Cases
    Government agencies generally have to petition courts to destroy food the agencies have seized. The government usually does this on the grounds of protecting the public health but in nearly all cases there is no evidence that the food from the same production batch under seizure has made anyone sick. For some producers or distributors a single court order to destroy food can put them out of business. In cases like the Kansas raw camel milk seizure the government hasn’t even alleged that the milk is adulterated or a threat to human health.

    In one Missouri case, a court ordered the destruction of over 30,000 pounds of raw cheese even though the cheese manufacturer, Morningland Dairy, had never been accused of making anyone sick in 30 years of doing business and neither FDA nor the Missouri Milk Board had tested any of the cheese subject to the destruction order. FDA had taken 100 environmental swabs at the facility all of which were negative for the pathogen. Judges who rule against destroying food are in a no-win situation even if the facts of the case favor the food producer or distributor; they are under tremendous pressure to err on the side of protecting the public health even if there is no real health threat at all. A jury would better take into consideration the evidence on the side of producers and distributors in these cases.

    Jury Trial for Cases Where the Government Seeks a Permanent Injunction Against Food Producers and Distributors
    An injunction is a court order prohibiting someone from doing some specified act or commanding someone to undo some wrong or injury. A permanent injunction is a final court order that is permanently in effect unless the court lifts the order. Those who violate the injunction can face contempt charges with the possibility of fines and/or jail time.

    In Michigan the past couple of years the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) has brought court actions for injunction against two different raw milk producers, Hill High Dairy and Dairy Delight Cow Boarding, for matters that should not have been any of MDARD’s business. In the Hill High Dairy case the department tried to stop individuals leasing cows from having the leaseholders hire someone to process their own raw milk into other dairy products; in the Dairy Delight case the department tried to stop those in a herdshare program from selling, among other foods, oatmeal cookies and apple muffins to other shareholders without proper labeling. Both cases involved private, closed-loop transactions far outside the stream of public commerce; in the Hill High Dairy case, MDARD not only obtained an injunction against the dairy prohibiting it from violating state food and dairy laws but brought contempt charges against the dairy when its leaseholders continued to have their raw milk processed into other dairy products. Thankfully, the judge hearing the case brought some common sense to the matter when he ruled the dairy was not in contempt.

    Agencies like MDARD would be less likely to bring actions for an injunction and contempt suits for violation of an injunction in these type of cases if they knew that food producers and distributors would be entitled to a trial by a jury of their peers.

    Right to Jury Trial for Appeals of Administrative Rulings
    Government agencies seeking to punish food producers with penalties such as license revocation or fines can resort to administrative hearings where the odds of success are not as great for producers as they would be in a judicial court. Several raw milk producers have found out firsthand that administrative hearings are often one-sided proceedings in which those the agency is trying to punish are afforded little due process.

    One Ohio farmer had his dairy license revoked at an administrative hearing for taking a $2.00 donation for a gallon of raw milk he gave to an undercover officer from the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Raw dairy producers have been through administrative hearings where, even if the person presiding over the hearing ruled against the government agency, the agency had the power legally to ignore the ruling and issue the order it wanted to anyway.

    Parties can appeal the ruling to a judicial trial court; the courts sits as an appellate court for the appeal but is limited to reviewing just the record from the administrative proceeding. The system needs to change so that the trial court would sit as a trial court trying the matter from the beginning as if it had never been heard in the administrative proceeding (the legal term is de novo trial) to give the individual the agency seeks to punish a fresh start in a less biased proceeding. To further discourage government harassment there should be a right to a jury trial in the appeal of an administrative proceeding to a judicial court.

Even if a state currently has a favorable regulatory climate for the production and distribution of nutrient-dense food, it is still the right move to pass the laws suggested above in case the enforcement policy of the agencies ever change.

Producers and distributors of raw milk and other nutritious foods who take the risks they do to make those foods available deserve to get justice and not just law if a court action is brought against them. Greater protection is needed for those who provide for our sustenance.

[1] Spanf v. United States 156 U.S. 51 (1895)
[2] State v. Paul 167 N.H. 39,42
[3] The jury instruction the trial court judge gave in the Paul case was: “You should follow the law as I explain it regardless of any opinion you may have as to what the law ought to be. If you have a reasonable doubt as to whether the State has proved any one or more of the elements of the crime charged, you must find the defendant not guilty. However, if you find that the state has proved all elements beyond a reasonable doubt, you should find the defendant guilty.” Paul, p. 41.

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.

[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

Will Dubai Camel Milk Soon Be Available in the US?

In the United States, camel milk is hard to find. When you can find camel milk, it is expensive: pasteurized camel milk retails for $16 per pint.

DairyReporter.com estimates that in the US there are 18,000 cows for every camel. It is strictly illegal to import or sell camel milk in the US, as the FDA has not yet created quality standards for it.

Despite this, one large camel farm in Dubai, Camelicious, has its sights set on entering the US market with its pasteurized camel’s milk. Realmilk.com blog has previously reported on raw camel milk testimonies which give evidence of the therapeutic value of raw camel’s milk.

“Camel milk has always been known in the Middle East, but the accessibility for the wider public has been limited… Our goal is to promote the benefits of camel milk as a natural and pure resource of the region, and as a healthy alternative to cow’s milk.” says Mutasher Al Badry, the manager of business development at Al Nassma, a sister company of Camelicious that distributes fine chocolates made with camel’s milk.

Camel’s milk has 3x more Vitamin C and 10x more iron than cow’s milk; it is low in lactose and studies show that it can treat maladies like diabetes and Crohn’s disease.

Camelicious hopes, that when the time comes, it will be able to woo over American consumers with camel milk’s healthy properties in fun flavors like chocolate, strawberry, saffron, date, and original.

The Campaign for Real Milk is a project of the Weston A. Price Foundation, a nutrition education non-profit based in Washington, D.C. Fan the Campaign for Real Milk on Facebook.

Australian Reporter Details Experience Drinking Camel Milk for One Month

PJ Madam, a reporter for Australian news program Sunday Night, drank unpasteurized camel milk for one month and detailed her experience on Yahoo!: “This is a story about camels, their milk, and my bowel moments” she starts.

PJ writes that although she has repeatedly tested negative to allergies, she has experienced “…cramps, sharp pain, bloating followed by bathroom dramas” for the past 10 years.

“It’s humiliating and frustrating,” she writes, and it was enough to convince her to see if camel milk could help alleviate her symptoms. The sale of raw milk is illegal in Australia but she was able to find the country’s only dairy farmer from whom she bought bottles plastered with ‘not fit for human consumption’ labels, making it her choice whether to drink it or not.

After personally seeing how clean the farm is and speaking with the farmer about how he tests his milk for dangerous bacteria every day, she decided to experiment with drinking one glass of raw camel milk for breakfast every day for one month. She writes: “After a month, my stomach symptoms didn’t stop entirely, but they weren’t as severe. Very little cramping, and the bloating disappeared.” Plus, she almost instantly saw a flat stomach: “It was as if I’d been secretly doing up to 300 sit-ups a day and overnight I’d gained a washboard effect.”

Her personal experience seems to fit with the experiences of those she interviewed prior to her experiment, all of whom shared stories of the health benefits of camel milk to treat their Common Variable Immune Deficiency or children’s asthma or autism.

The Campaign for Real Milk is a project of the Weston A. Price Foundation, a nutrition education non-profit based in Washington, D.C. Fan the Campaign for Real Milk on Facebook.

Raw Camel Milk Packs a Punch of Good Health

Those who believe that raw cow milk is a healthy, nutritious food should consider raw camel milk. In the Middle East, many believe camel milk has curative powers and it is so prized that it is saved for special occasions and for when houseguests drop by.

Although camel milk is not as popular with American raw milk drinkers as cow or goat, it is starting to become available in the US – in both pasteurized and unpasteurized forms. Of those who have tried it, some strongly believe the anti-inflammatory properties of camel milk (especially unpasteurized) helps improve brain function and can help with autism. See our previous blog which details one family’s testimony, How Raw Camel Milk Helped Her Daughters.

One special type of camel milk, colostrum, is especially packed with nutrients. Colostrum is the first milk that comes out of the female camel when her baby is born, so it is extra nutritious in order to get the new baby healthy and strong as quickly as possible.

“It’s the ultimate superfood,” explains one camel milk vendor, who sells colostrum for a whopping $40 per 16oz bottle – yet sells out within a matter of hours.

The Campaign for Real Milk is a project of the nutrition education non-profit, The Weston A. Price Foundation. Donate to help fund research into the benefits of nutrient dense foods.  westonaprice.org/lab