Uncowed by the law

Raw Food Raids


When agents of the Los Angeles County district attorney, the Los Angeles County sheriff, the Ventura County sheriff, and the California Department of Food and Agriculture showed up at the door of 12-year-old Jasmine Palmer for an early-morning raid in June, she knew exactly what to expect. She wasn't happy about it.

"If you take my computer again," she told the 20 officials assembled for a five-hour search of her family's Ventura County farmhouse, "I can't do my homework." The cops took the machine anyway, along with some milk. It was the third computer Jasmine had lost in as many raids. The search was part of an ongoing investigation into the way the Palmers label their commercial goat cheese.

According to the environmental news site Grist, there has been an uptick in such raids around the country this year. On the very same day, a raid was conducted at the Rawesome organic co-op in Venice, California, which sells some of the Palmer family's products. In addition to the cast of agencies listed above, the Rawesome raid involved the federal Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It was conducted at gunpoint.

Selling raw milk is legal in California and 10 other states as long as the dairies and retail stores involved in the business have the proper permits. But getting those permits can be tricky—the Palmers thought they were well on their way to correcting their paperwork after the second raid—and aggressive raids breed disobedience. Four days after the Rawesome raid, the co-op had restocked and reopened, in defiance of a shutdown order.