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The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) has hired veteran Washington, D.C. attorney, Jim Turner, to litigate an FDA Citizen Petition seeking to lift the interstate ban on raw butter for human consumption. FTCLDF and Mark McAfee, president of Organic Pastures Dairy Company (OPDC), filed the petition with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on July 1, 2016; to date, FDA has yet to provide a substantive response.
The Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) and the Communities Alliance for Responsible Eco-agriculture (CARE) are providing funding for Turner’s legal expenses. WAPF is the leading advocacy group in the U.S. for raw milk and raw milk products, including butter. CARE is a Pennsylvania-based food buyers club that has long been a strong supporter of freedom of food choice, especially raw dairy products.
Turner is no stranger to FDA, having dealt with the agency on various matters since the 1960s. His law practice consists of representing businesses, individuals, and consumer groups on regulatory issues concerning food, drug, health product safety and environmental matters.
In 1970 he was largely responsible for getting Cyclamate, an artificial sweetener, pulled off the market. For nearly ten years he fought against FDA and the G.D. Searle Corporation in an effort to take the artificial sweetener, aspartame, off the market. There have been more complaints filed with FDA about aspartame than any other food product.
Federal law requires FDA to file a response to a citizen petition within six months after receiving a copy. In December 2016 FDA sent FTCLDF and McAfee a letter stating it needed more time to review the petition; in the two years since, the agency has sent nothing to the two petitioners. If Turner can’t convince FDA to issue a substantive response to the petition, he will likely file a writ of mandamus motion in a federal district court to have the court compel FDA to respond. If FDA rejects the petition, petitioners can appeal the agency’s decision to a federal appellate court.
There has been a federal ban on raw milk and raw milk products for human consumption (other than raw cheese aged sixty days) in interstate commerce since 1987 when FDA issued a regulation (21 CFR 1240.61) establishing the ban in response to a court order. Three arguments Turner can make to lift the ban are: that FDA exceeded its authority in banning raw butter since the case resulting in the court order, Public Citizen v. Heckler, only concerned fluid milk products (milk, cream, yogurt) not manufactured milk products (butter, cheese); that federal statute (21 CFR 341) prohibits FDA from issuing a federal ‘standard of identity’ regulation for butter [standards of identity are requirements prescribing what a food product must contain to be marketed–pasteurization is one such requirement]; and that there isn’t a single foodborne illness outbreak attributed to the consumption of commercially produced raw butter [OPDC has sold over 2 million pounds of raw butter since 2001 without incident]. FDA is basically claiming that its power to regulate communicable disease allows it to ban a food that makes few, if any, sick.
The butter petition is a great opportunity to weaken the interstate raw dairy ban — a significant step towards the day when the transport of all raw dairy products across state lines will be legal. Jim Turner has the experience and ability to make that happen.
Image from video: Jim Turner Recalls Rumsfeld Meeting over Nutrasweet Toxicity, published on YouTube October 7, 2011