NFL

Small-Town Raw Milk Farm Faces Dubious Attack in Massachusetts

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Just across from Gillette Stadium, the gleaming Foxborough, Mass. home of the three-time Super Bowl champion New England Patriots and their brilliant quarterback, Tom Brady, sits Lawton's Family Farm, a small family farm that's stood in place since the 1730s.

But while the 10-3 Patriots have New Englanders daring to dream of another NFL championship this year, the smaller but no less impressive Massachusetts institution that is Lawton's is struggling to fight an existential new threat proposed by the town's health department.

That crackdown would subject Lawton's to a host of new, stricter standards for raw milk above and beyond those Massachusetts presently requires of dairies throughout the state.

Lawton's and their customers—and supporters throughout the state and beyond—are up in arms. But Foxborough health department officials don't see the big deal.

"We're not trying to take away their rights," Foxborough health director Pauline Clifford told the Boston Globe last month. "We just want these regulations beefed up."

One of the regulations Clifford suggests are in need of beefing, she told the Globe, would "require the dairy to submit a list of its customers so they could be notified of any health issues."

While I find it exceedingly disturbing that a town would force its farmers to keep tabs on their customers (just as I would if a restaurant, or food truck, or any other food seller was forced to obtain each customer's name and address, and to hand those names and addresses over to city regulators without a warrant), I find it equally troubling that Pauline Clifford is one of the leading voices supporting this crackdown. (Indeed, according to journalist, author, and blogger David Gumpert, Clifford is "responsible for developing the new regulations[.]")

Though I'd never heard of Clifford before the current raw milk imbroglio, it turns out that she is no stranger to controversy.

When Foxborough promoted Clifford to health agent from her job as town sanitarian in 2008, the Attleboro-North Attleboro Sun Chronicle reported that Clifford was a controversial choice for the job because she "didn't meet all the job requirements," according to town manager Andrew Gala.

"[T]he promotion of Clifford, who lacked the advertised requirement of a bachelor's degree, has been a source of tension over the hiring process, qualifications and salary, according to town officials and records," reported the Sun Chronicle in the wake of Clifford's promotion.

Of course, an academic degree alone is no guarantee of anything. In fact, one particular example of this fact, another instance of the public health community's frequent attacks on raw milk, will always stand out in my mind.

Noted raw milk opponent Bill Keene, whose professional qualifications were never in doubt—he held both a doctorate in microbiology and a master's degree in public health—served as a senior epidemiologist with Oregon's state health department. His many accomplishments are rightly celebrated.

But Keene also claimed, in a May 1999 op-ed (subscription required) on raw milk in the prestigious medical journal JAMA, that "dairy milk is essentially a suspension of fecal and other microorganisms in a nutrient broth."

In other words, all milk is poo.

That patently false claim of Keene's has since clung to raw milk. It's been quoted everywhere from the website of food-safety litigator nonpareil Bill Marler (as part of the website's "peer-reviewed literature") to the pages of Safe Food, a 2010 book by Prof. Marion Nestle.

I pointed out the error of his statement to Keene, who sadly passed away earlier this month, in an email exchange with him in 2010.

Keene was cordial despite our disagreement. But while Keene admitted to me that he was "no dairy expert," I believe he should have retracted the statement, if not the entire JAMA op-ed.

Which brings us back to Pauline Clifford, who has been mired in controversy since her promotion.

In 2009, just a year after Clifford's promotion, the tiny Foxboro Reporter (for those of you keeping track, Foxborough is often spelled by lopping off the "ugh") devoted more than 1,600 words in a single column to describing discord and rancor within the Foxborough health department that had arisen since Clifford's hiring, including several bizarre allegations against Clifford made by two employees she supervised.

Meanwhile, town manager Gala also told the Foxboro Reporter that "Clifford failed the National Environmental Health Association exam to become a certified environmental health technician."

Passing that exam was described "[a]s a condition of her promotion[.]"

The dispute within the health department was so serious that the two dissident employees she oversaw, town sanitarian Marc MacFarland and environmental specialist Andrea McGillicuddy, eventually sued the city in 2010, "alleging that Health Agent Pauline Clifford's professional shortcomings have 'devastated' the office's functioning and placed the public health at risk," according to reports in the Foxboro Reporter.

The Reporter said the lawsuits painted Clifford as an "unqualified and abusive manager [who]…. defamed her two subordinates by spreading rumors of drug abuse, violated the privacy of their medical records and retaliated against and harassed them for reporting her actions."

In 2011, Foxborough board of selectman meeting minutes indicate the town was prepared to pay thousands of dollars to the health department employees supervised by Clifford to settle the lawsuit out of court.

Sure enough, the taxpayers' payout, according to a Sun Chronicle report, was at least $40,000.

What's more, it turns out that, like the late Dr. Keene, the person developing the rules in Foxborough is no dairy expert.

"When I asked Clifford whether she had any training in inspecting dairies, she said she didn't," writes Gumpert, who's covered the Foxborough issue extensively.

A hearing on the sale of raw milk in Foxborough is set for Monday, Dec. 16. It's almost too obvious to note at this point that the department should reject any notion of adopting its absurd and unjust proposed crackdown on raw milk. After that, Foxborough town officials should take a very long, hard look at their health department.

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  1. But while the 10-3 Patriots have New Englanders daring to dream of another NFL championship this year,

    I’m daring to dream they might be able to play four decent consecutive quarters first.

    1. With that whole opening, I figured Baylen was trying to troll Sloopy.

    2. my friend’s mom makes $63 an hour on the computer. She has been out of work for seven months but last month her payment was $18465 just working on the computer for a few hours. Go to this web site and read more http://www.cash29.com/

  2. to the pages of Safe Food, a 2010 book by Prof. Marion Nestle.

    Somebody named Nestl? writing about quality food?

  3. Also,

    “We’re not trying to take away their rights,” Foxborough health director Pauline Clifford told the Boston Globe last month. “We just want these regulations beefed up to make it nigh impossible for them to exercise those rights.”

    Piss off, slaver.

  4. I always wonder how people like this C keep their jobs. It would be so easy for the city to fire her. Not only is she disruptive, but clearly doesn’t meet the qualifications for the job. What’s the point in keeping her around?

    1. Blow jobs, I’m guessing.

        1. I’d do her.

          1. I’d do her.

            Ugh. I think I almost vomited. Must be the raw milk that is everywhere around me, making everyone sick!

    2. …”What’s the point in keeping her around?”

      In SF, it’s usually the person is in some way or other a ‘community activist’ and can reliably deliver a certain number of votes.
      Other than that, the person has to avoid making statements so incredibly stupid that the lap-dog press can’t cover them up.
      Hmm, now that I think about it…

  5. This brings to mind a P.J. O’Rourke line – “The beauty of fascism is that it gives every piss-ant an ant-hill from which to piss.

  6. What’s more, it turns out that, like the late Dr. Keene, the person developing the rules in Foxborough is no dairy expert.

    This seems to be the norm. The original draft of the McGovern Commission’s Dietary Goals was written by Nick Mottern, whose background was in labor reporting. It was published with only minor changes, and those changes were purely political.

  7. A good hard FDA/USDA SWAT raid should put Lawton’s in its place.

  8. Raw milk is a silent killer!.

    Our intrepid scientists here in Sunny Minnesota have PROVEN (with scientific math and stuff) that raw milk illnesses are way under-reported and once you apply a magic multiplier it is clear that it is way too dangerous for humans to consume.

    Honestly, the state officials here really have it out for raw milk. I bet I hear some story each month about how raw milk has nearly killed some poor innocent. I’m hoping it is just a ruse to keep the evil Wisconnies on their side of the St. Croix.

    1. From the article above:

      The officials analyzed 14,339 cases of foodborne illness, and found that 3.7% had consumed raw milk — mostly from cows — during the time they were exposed to the bacteria. Seventy of them had to be hospitalized, for an average of three days, and an 11-month-old child died. Of the 530 people, 377 told officials where the milk came from. Almost half of them got it from their own or a relative’s farm.

      The Minnesota officials applied multipliers to account for under-diagnosis and estimated that over the 10 years, 20,502 people got sick with sporadic illnesses after drinking raw milk. Further, they estimated that 118,843 people drink raw milk in a given week in the state.

      That led them to conclude that an estimated 17.3% of raw milk drinkers in Minnesota may have become sick from a pathogen associated with raw milk. It’s possible, the officials said, that people can get sick from direct contact with the cows, rather than just the milk, but they consider that unlikely for most people.

      http://www.latimes.com/science…..z2nSaIUJxb

      1. “Of the 530 people, 377 told officials where the milk came from. Almost half of them got it from their own or a relative’s farm.”

        Did they mention that people have been consuming raw milk from their own or a relative’s farm for more than 10,000 years?

        Incidentally, I’ve read studies suggesting that children who grow up on farms have a significantly lower incidence of autoimmune diseases.

        Some of those studies have found that one of the reasons for that is because children on farms consume raw milk.

        http://tinyurl.com/3kv4p4k

        This is perfectly consistent with the Hygiene Hypothesis, which suggests that the reason for the explosion in autoimmune diseases in the developed world is due to children being raised in what amounts to an antiseptic environment.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hygiene_hypothesis

        1. “Children who grow up on farms have a significantly lower incidence of autoimmune diseases….[and] one of the reasons for that is because children on farms consume raw milk.”

          That’s right. By making it harder for parents to get their hands on raw milk, those Minnesota officials are probably harming children.

          1. Given that the population of Sunny Minnesota is 5.38M, and 118K people have had raw milk each week, you can say that 2% of the people here are getting the benefits.

            Now lets say that the 2% is composed of families of 4. That makes it 1% or 64K kids are benefiting from raw milk each week.

            If we now assume that eliminating the scare stories would increase consumption of raw milk by – hold on while I whip this scientific multiplier out of my random number generator – 3.7%.

            Using that super scientific multiplier, you can see that an increase of 3.7% in the number of kids that would drink raw milk would be 2,400 or so.

            That is nearly double the number of people in the state who openly admit to following the Vikings!

            Where is my grant for all this science?

            1. In all seriousness, for people who have autoimmune diseases (and, thus, suspect that they’re genetically predisposed to autoimmune diseases), it is reasonable for them to feed their children raw milk as a preventative measure.

              I bet if you asked people who are suffering from autoimmune diseases whether they wished their parents had taken a chance and fed them raw milk growing up, a lot of them would say they wished they’d been fed raw milk.

              I know I can vouch for at least one person who feels that way.

      2. Why are so many people in Minnesota making direct contact with cows?

        1. With the deep snow, you tend to lose sheep. Cows… All year long baby!

          1. Important Fact for Visitors:

            During sub-zero temperatures, it is OK to skip the foreplay. Nothing is more embarrassing than to be found with your tongue frozen to a cow twat like that kid in Christmas Story.

        2. Have you seen some of the women from up there ?

      3. The officials analyzed 14,339 cases of foodborne illness, and found that 3.7% had consumed raw milk — mostly from cows — during the time they were exposed to the bacteria.

        Im guessing that far more than 3.7% had consumed water or beer or pasteurized milk during that timeframe.

        1. Another post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy.

      4. The Minnesota officials applied multipliers to account for under-diagnosis and estimated that over the 10 years, 20,502 people got sick with sporadic illnesses after drinking raw milk. Further, they estimated that 118,843 people drink raw milk in a given week in the state.

        So they ‘estimate’ that 2,050 people get sick a year from drinking raw milk; which is consumed at least 6,

      5. The Minnesota officials applied multipliers to account for under-diagnosis and estimated that over the 10 years, 20,502 people got sick with sporadic illnesses after drinking raw milk. Further, they estimated that 118,843 people drink raw milk in a given week in the state.

        So they ‘estimate’ that 2,050 people get sick a year from drinking raw milk; which is consumed at least 6,

        1. So they ‘estimate’ that 2,050 people get sick a year from drinking raw milk; which is consumed at least 6,180,000 times a year – for a risk rate of .00033 – assuming that every person that drank raw milk in a week did so only once.

          IOW by their own scare study drinking raw milk is safer than driving to work daily.

          1. If it only saves one life, especially if that life is a children !

      6. While I’m not for the hyper-regulating of raw milk, the standard for bacterial count in my state is the same for pasteurized milk. Thusly, the same results. Family farm is different.

        Think about it.

    2. From the article above:

      The officials analyzed 14,339 cases of foodborne illness, and found that 3.7% had consumed raw milk — mostly from cows — during the time they were exposed to the bacteria. Seventy of them had to be hospitalized, for an average of three days, and an 11-month-old child died. Of the 530 people, 377 told officials where the milk came from. Almost half of them got it from their own or a relative’s farm.

      The Minnesota officials applied multipliers to account for under-diagnosis and estimated that over the 10 years, 20,502 people got sick with sporadic illnesses after drinking raw milk. Further, they estimated that 118,843 people drink raw milk in a given week in the state.

      That led them to conclude that an estimated 17.3% of raw milk drinkers in Minnesota may have become sick from a pathogen associated with raw milk. It’s possible, the officials said, that people can get sick from direct contact with the cows, rather than just the milk, but they consider that unlikely for most people.

      http://www.latimes.com/science…..z2nSaIUJxb

      1. My first double post!

        I figure that now that the squirrels have accepted me, the next step in the progression is to have Shriek tell me that I’m a christfag or something.

        I’m on my way boys…

        1. You need to post your strong opinion about abortion, circumcision, deep dish pizza, and of course which Star Trek captain was superior.*

          Janeway. She beat the Borg with coffee!

          1. Kirk: Drunken fist fights. Mandatory miniskirts.

            1. Kirk: Sex with a green alien life form.

          2. Abortion no, circumcision yes, deep dish yes, Kirk yes. The Chris Pine version. Not that Shatner loser.

            1. The Chris Pine version. Not that Shatner loser.

              That is sick.

            2. Kirk: He 3D printed a shotgun and killed a Tyrannosaurus Rex!

        2. Don’t forget artisanal mayonnaise. Plus, mention Global Warming to summon Tony, and if you are really, really lucky, mention the police and Dumfy will come out of the shadows.

          Good luck.

          1. I am pretty sure the past few weeks in America have proven conclusively, without a shadow of a doubt, that the earth is warming.

            1. ERMAHGERD CLERMERTE CHERNGE

  9. One could get all sciency and back up claims (pro or con) about the milk’s safety with tests from a neutral laboratory.

    I wouldn’t trust the milk NAZI to do it on her own.

    1. A lot of these decisions are made on a qualitative basis, for reasons that cannot be tested in a lab.

      I have a PhD in Ken Shultz’s qualitative preferences. Every religious fanatic with a room temperature IQ knows things about his or her own qualitative preferences that no independent lab could ever test.

      For qualitative reasons, I like to ride my motorcycle really fast through twisty mountain roads. Really! I’m willing to put myself in danger, sometimes–for qualitative reasons–and how could any lab test my motorcycle to see whether my enjoyment is scientifically valid?

      People drink raw milk for qualitative reasons. Looking at milk, what is any lab going to tell us about their qualitative preferences? That they’re dangerous?

      So what?

      I can think of a thousand things I qualitatively prefer despite the danger.

      1. Testing would help interested consumers make an informed free market decision about whether or not they want to buy the stuff.

        1. Seems to me the people who want to buy it don’t need that testing.

          They’re fine with the risk profile and buying it the way it is now.

          1. Some are, some aint. I like to know what I’m drinking and, I do drink raw milk if I know the conditions under which it’s produced.

            1. I mean to write that it seems to me the people who want to buy it don’t need that testing.

              This thread is about some government bureaucrat heaping unnecessary regulations on a farm.

              The people who are already buying it don’t need the scientific study, in other words, or they wouldn’t be buying it.

              1. Yes, but some people hesitate to buy without knowing more about what they’re getting. A little testing might help dispel fears and end up selling more raw milk.

                And I do not suggest that the government be involved with the testing or anything else.

  10. When we give officials the power to make arbitrary decisions on our behalf, it is guaranteed that they will make decisions for us arbitrarily.

    1. If it wasn’t for the government, I would be out driving around, texting while not wearing a seat-belt. And I would be smoking a cigarette.

      1. If it wasn’t for the government, I wouldn’t know the difference between what’s okay to eat that comes out of a cow and what’s not okay to eat that comes out of a cow!

        Why, I’d be sitting in a pasture, somewhere, eating bull chips like they were appetizers!

        Thanks, health officials! God only knows what I’d do without you.

        1. …”eating bull chips”…

          Where I grew up, it was “cow pies”

        2. I’m not advocating that the government get involved at all. I prefer objective information to jabber, and tests and measurements supply such information. No government is needed to test milk to see if it has cow shit in it.

  11. What’s more, it turns out that, like the late Dr. Keene, the person developing the rules in Foxborough is no dairy expert.

    And, of course, who cares if they are an expert or not. It’s the wrong argument to make. If this person based their rulemaking on valid scientific evidence, then they can make their case. If it turned out that raw milk consumption causes communicable disease, I wouldn’t have a problem with government regulating it. Although, I’m sure evolution would have already regulated it.

    1. But what if they are Top. Men.?

    2. There was a time when raw milk transmitted stuff like tuberculosis and undulant fever. These days cattle are likely tested for TB and vaccinated for Bang’s disease, so the milk supply is much safer than before, but Pasteurization was a good idea at one time.

      Cowshit in the milk is a matter of sanitation practices and your farmer’s mileage may vary on that matter.

  12. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the local real estate developers were using this office and Clifford to try to close Lawton’s operations entirely. Looking at its location on Google maps, it does seem like a very desirable location. Perhaps they can get Foxboro to seize the farm under eminent domain under the pretense of health code violations?

    1. You can understand what the health officials are doing just in terms of trying to justify their own jobs.

      If we do don’t need health officials to protect us from the milk we want, then we need fewer health officials than we have now, that’s for sure.

      1. I’m all in favor of raw milk, and THIS is where we should be getting’ it from! Though I disagree with the method of milk-gathering as shown here? I could CLEARLY think of better methods of harvesting it and absorbing it into my body? I must ‘fess up, the source clearly deserves my hearty approval! See http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO0310/S00003.htm ?

        1. I think there might be some political resistance to that from…various special interests.

          But Ron Bailey might think that’s a good idea! Maybe that’s where we’ll go after the singularity.

          1. I think Bailey might say we’re headed to engineered bodies that don’t require food and drink thus eliminating the need for a digestive tract and its associated organs. Rip out your guts and replace with a miniature nuclear reactor to power your awesome cyborg body.

            I’d be cool with that.

            1. I”m also cool with women having more breasts. If 2 are awesome then 4 are going to be incredible!

              1. If women are going to have two more breasts, then I’m going to need two more hands.

        2. I’m halfway there with you on this.

          My reservation is that it looks like the plan is to do this with the Big Agri model. I’d suggest legislation that only allows the small farmer who milks by hand.

          If nothing else, it would keep kids down on the farm. No more of this moving to the big city shit.

        3. Btw, great find on that article. I now have my dose of pearl-clutching (and flat-out bullshit, like calling humans and cows “evolutionary kinsfolk”) for the week.

    2. Perhaps they can get Foxboro to seize the farm under eminent domain under the pretense of health code violations?

      I’m sure “Gillette Stadium needs another parking lot” would work just as well, and more easily.

  13. ERMAHGERD RER MERLK

  14. Many thanks to REASON magazine for drawing attention to this issue. Lawton Farm is our source for raw milk.

    My family started using raw milk 7 years ago when my wife was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Seeing all the side effects of the meds prescribed, she was determined to bring about balance in her system through more natural means. A large part of that has been the raw milk from Lawton Family Farm.

    We would like to thank them for their commitment to stay in business and continue providing good food for those who wish it as part of their diet.

    Oh, by the way, my wife has been symptom-free for 6 years now. Methinks she made the right choice.

    Butt Out, Foxboro!

    1. I know someone with UC who’s been thinking about trying that. It isn’t just the side effects fo the meds–it’s the cost, too! If you’re paying out of pocket and you’re self-insured, they want more than $1,000 a month!

      And like I said, in regards to the study I linked up yonder, kids with a genetic predisposition to auto-immune diseases may benefit from drinking raw milk. That study was about hay fever and asthma, but I think they just linked it to those two autoimmune problems because those were the two put forth in the original iteration of the hygiene hypothesis.

      None of this stuff seems weird to people with UC or Crohn’s. Hell, I understand they’re treating people with with parasitic worms, now.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H…..y#Research

      It’s going to be really somethin’ if doctors are writing us prescriptions to be infested with worms in the near future, and, meanwhile, the local health department, effectively, won’t let us buy raw milk because it might contain the microbes we need.

  15. “Fonterra, New Zealand’s largest milk company recently purchased the patent rights to large amounts of human DNA from an Australian genetics company. ”

    Always been curious how someone can get a patent on my genes.

  16. I’m amused when I read all the hysteria about raw milk. Both my parents grew up on it and lived well into their eighties. As a kid, I spent about a month each summer at grandparents, helping to milk the cow and drinking the milk still warm from it. Ditto butter churned from that milk. I certainly never got sick from it.

    -Michael W. Perry, author of My Nights with Leukemia: Caring for Children with Cancer

    1. I was raised on raw milk from our own cows. We knew the cows were disease free and were careful about sanitation.If you have a trustworthy supplier, fine. If not, good luck.

  17. What about human milk? Don’t babies usually drink that raw?

    1. Indeed they do, but the source of the milk and conditions where it is produced are known, eh?

  18. she told the Globe, would “require the dairy to submit a list of its customers so they could be notified of any health issues.”

    Fwww, nearly bought raw milk from them over the summer. Boy did I dodge a bullet.

  19. Sounds like some serious business.

    http://www.Anon-Go.tk

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