Local food, political activism, Slow Food

Black Dye in Raw Milk Update

From Ruth Ann Foster
Greensboro, NC Chapter Leader and Raw Milk Coordinator
October 19, 2007

On September 7, 2007, the NC Board of the Department of Agriculture (NCDA) adopted a rule requiring the addition of a charcoal colored dye be added to all raw milk sold as pet milk. This rule was then sent to the NC Rules Review Commission (RRC), which assessed it during the past month.

RRC attorney Bobby Bryan evaluated the rule and determined that the Ag Department had followed correct protocol and does have the statutory authority to mandate this rule. Therefore, it was his recommendation to the Commission that they accept the rule.

Before voting on October 18, 2007, the Rules Review Commission heard testimony from Kathy Davis, an organic pet milk producer. Kathy is one of only two pet milk producers registered with the Ag Department. Kathy emphasized the need for organic colostrum and milk for the beef industry and other farmers. She addressed the issue of protecting her organic certification and how the addition of dye would cause her product to be adulterated.

The Commission then called for a response from David McLeod, NCDA Assistant Commissioner for Policy, Communications, and Legal Affairs. Mr. McLeod reiterated the illegality of raw milk in North Carolina and how this rule was to deter its consumption. He stated that the dye chosen met organic standards. However, we have recently learned that NCDA has never contacted Kathy Davis’s organic certifier Amy Griner, despite Amy’s requests to determine the composition of the dye to give it approval.

The RRC was amused by the fact that there are only two pet milk producers in the state. Sadly, it is not the role of the Commission to evaluate the necessity or fairness of a rule. They merely follow the rule making protocol outlined in the Administrative Procedures Act.

It was obvious that the vote was a difficult one for the RRC as they reluctantly made a move to vote. The result, after a few moments of deliberation, was in favor of the rule. Fortunately, their vote does not make this rule active, yet. The Commission stated that they were very impressed and thanked Kathy for her articulate and passionate presentation.

The NCDA was surprised by the scope of our objection, which they did not expect! Because the RRC received our numerous letters of objection, the rule has been successfully delayed for review in the next legislative session.

In May 2008, Senator Kay Hagan will introduce a bill to block this rule. If Senator Hagan or any other legislator were not to introduce a bill at that time, the dye in pet milk rule would automatically go into effect in July 2008. Meanwhile, pet milk sales remain LEGAL and require NO addition of dye.

Clearly, the NCDA’s attempt to thwart us with this rule has not only heightened public awareness but also increased support. Many have become disconcerted by the ridiculous bureaucratic efforts intended to restrict our freedom of choice. Public interest is vital for gaining legislative endorsement. Having two bills in the upcoming legislative session should garner more attention from our senators and representatives. Our work continues.

Contact your state senators and representatives to make them aware of this pending rule. Refer to the talking points provided to convey your objections.
To find your legislators go to http://ncleg.net/ . On the right side bar type in your nine digit zip code.

Many thanks to Kathy Davis for her excellent testimony, and to all of you who work so diligently to make clean raw milk a legal food choice in North Carolina.

Yours Sincerely,
Ruth Ann Foster


* This rule is intended to penalize people not pets.
* Raw milk is a natural food or feed designed to be consumed in its natural state. It is not manufactured.
* Addition of dye is adulteration.
* FDA estimates that only .5% of milk is consumed raw
* This rule deters NC farmers from realizing income from pet milk sales while consumers may purchase raw milk from South Carolina where it is legally sold
* There are two raw milks – one that must be pasteurized due to poor quality milk from confined animals, and the other which consumers seek from grass fed, healthy animals on pasture
* There are only two pet milk producers registered with the NCDA

Consumer Awareness
* Consumers who purchase pet milk know what they are buying. They do not confuse it with grocery store milk.
* Consumption of raw milk is totally legal
* Raw milk is legally sold retail in 12 states
* With restrictions in 22
* Sold as pet milk in 5 states
* Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Texas, and Washington require dye in pet milk
* However, these states ALSO allow raw milk for human consumption

Raw Milk Safety
* The FDA estimates there are 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths per year from foodborne illnesses
* The majority are caused by contaminated Produce, 38%
* ALL dairy – pasteurized and raw, accounts for less than 1% of these illnesses
* All pathogens reported to be found in raw milk have been identified in pasteurized milk after pasteurization
* Pasteurized milk has caused numerous major foodborne outbreaks including our nation’s largest Salmonella outbreak which caused 200,000 illnesses, 3,000 hospitalizations, and 18 deaths

Raw Milk Safer than Pasteurized Milk
* During the past 25 years there have been NO outbreaks from Listeria in raw milk
* In that same time, Pasteurized milk has caused four major outbreaks resulting in 305 illnesses and 61 deaths from Listeria monocytogenes
* The 2000 Listeriosis outbreak in Winston-Salem was associated with contaminated cheese – the raw milk tested NEGATIVE for the pathogen

No food or drink is immune to contamination.
Raw milk is the ONLY food to be made illegal.

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