Thursday, August 4, 2011

Government raid of Rawesome food club in Venice

For the second time in two years, the Rawesome raw foods buying club was raided and ransacked, the morning of August 3, 2011.

This was a multi-agency sting that involved the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the California Franchise Tax Board, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Milk and Dairy Food Safety Branch, the CDFA Division of Measurement Standards, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department, the Ventura County Department of Public Health, the Los Angeles Police Department, and the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety.

James Cecil Stewart, the owner/operator of Rawesome, was arrested and charged with seven misdemeanors and six felony counts of conspiracy. His bail was set at $123,000.

Sharon Palmer, who operates Healthy Family Farms, LLC, in Santa Paula, Ventura County, CA, was arrested and charged with three of the misdemeanors and the six conspiracy charges. Her bail was set at $121,000.

Eugenie Victoria Bloch, LA chapter leader of the Weston A Price Foundation and part-time employee of Healthy Family Farms, was arrested with three counts of conspiracy. Her bail was set at $60,000.

All for daring to sell Healthy Family Farms’ raw goat milk and raw goat milk dairy products (and raw cow milk from Pennsylvania) to their loyal club members and shareholders.

People who belong to the “Right to Choose Healthy Food’s Rawesome Club” sign a membership agreement that states
“I completely reject and refuse all governmental food standards. I fully trust the board members of this club to properly oversee and manage the preparation, handling and packaging of the food in this club, including but not limited to raw meat, raw eggs, raw produce, raw juices, raw dairy...”
The FDA sent a message today, this is not the land of the free, certainly not when it comes to deciding what healthy food one consumes. The “officials” threw away $10,000 worth of food, not only the raw milk and dairy products but also fresh fruits and vegetables, just to send this message. They also confiscated cash, computers, and more.

Besides the felonies “to conspire,” the misdemeanor charges were for processing milk without pasteurization, operating an unlicensed milk plant, selling milk or milk products that don’t “conform to the standards,” selling milk that had been produced or handled using unsanitary conditions, operating an unlicensed milk business, operating a food facility without a permit, selling unlabeled and improperly labeled food, selling food from unapproved sources, failing to store eggs at the proper temperature, and removing a notice of closure.

But it is legal to sell raw milk in California. Organic Pastures in Fresno sells throughout the state and online.

And with the evidence now down the drain, is there any physical proof that the milk had been contaminated, as surely it must have been had it been treated without concern for sanitation?

Have there ever been any cases of illness due to consumption of raw food products from Rawesome? If not, this is all a big show.

Note the identity of the second official stakeholder, the California Franchise Tax Board. That’s the real story. Money. The money it takes to comply with all these licensing requirements. Money the state wants but hasn’t received because the farm has been operating without a license since 2007, and Rawesome for more than six years.

Licenses and permits are supposed to protect the public health, for example by requiring proper cleaning and sanitizing of equipment and proper veterinary care for animals. It seems clear that Rawesome and Healthy Family Farms have been breaking the laws requiring such licenses. However, the absence of a license does not make food prepared without one inherently unsafe. It is unconscionable to dump $10,000 of food for a technicality. If this was to punish Rawesome and the farm, at least the food, including the milk and other dairy products, could have been donated to a food bank.

The Felony Complaint for Arrest Warrant reveals some details of the undercover investigation that led to this arrest, involving informants disguised as buyers. Healthy Family Farms and Rawesome were set up. Isn’t this entrapment?

One person at the recent raid told the raiders:
“Drink your milk from Monsanto and poison your own children.”
I say “survival of the fittest” will determine who is right and who is not.

There was a Rawesome protest at the LA Courthouse this morning at 8:00 AM. The three “co-conspirators” had their day in court. Victoria Bloch was released without bail, still charged with one felony count. James Stewart’s bail was reduced to $30,000 provided he doesn’t sell unpasteurized milk without a license. Sharon Palmer will be arraigned Friday 8-4-2011 in the same courthouse. Rumors have it that her pro bono attorney will be Christopher Darden who worked on the prosecution side of the O.J. Simpson murder case.

More Information

Government Data Proves Raw Milk is Safe. June 22, 2011. Press Release by the Weston A. Price Foundation

Three Arrested on Charges of Illegally Producing, Selling Unpasteurized Milk. August 3, 2011. Press Release by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

Rawesome Farm Buying Club Raided Again. August 3, 2011. Press Release by The Weston A. Price Foundation.

Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund. Defending the rights and broadening the freedoms of family farms and protecting consumer access to raw milk and nutrient dense foods. website

Ann Marie Michaels. Weston A. Price Foundation Activist Award 2010. Cheeseslave on Facebook

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You might also be interested in Donna’s other work as National Food Security Examiner, National Science News Examiner, Long Beach Urban Agriculture Examiner, and founder and executive director of Long Beach Grows.

Copyright © 2011 Donna Marykwas; All rights reserved.

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