The Atlantic does a good job of covering the Rawesome food club raid. Rawesome was a private, voluntary cooperative of consenting members who take responsibility for any potential risks. (“Private” and “voluntary” being key words.)
Rawesome members even signed waivers before becoming a food club member. With all of the agencies involved (USDA, FDA, LA County Sheriff, CDC) over a period of a year, this had to cost a whole lot of taxpayer dough. The LA Weekly described it this way:
The official word from the DA’s office is that Stewart, Palmer & Bloch were arrested on criminal conspiracy charges stemming from the alleged illegal production and sale of unpasteurized goat milk, goat cheese, yogurt and kefir. The arrests are the result of a year-long sting. The 13-count complaint alleges that an undercover agent received goat milk, stored in a cooler in the back of Healthy Family Farms van, in the parking lot of a grocery store. While it’s legal to manufacture and sell unpasteurized dairy products in California, licenses and permits are required. Rawesome may have violated regulations by selling raw dairy products to non-members.
Here is a link to the 21-page complaint. Among the many charges against owner James Stewart is one that immediately stands out: entering into private leasing arrangements with consumers. This charge is still fuzzy, and I am sure the feds can produce a whole book of crimes.
The Atlantic writer, Ari LeVaux, compares the Rawesome raid (by Federal and local agencies) to the Cargill contamination of 36 million pounds of ground turkey (77 known ill people, 1 dead). Rawesome was raided, trashed, and shut down, and meanwhile, Cargill was looking at its analysis of costs vs the potential for negative publicity from the contamination situation so they could voluntarily decide whether or not to recall the product.
The reporter stated that food choice is being taken away (yes, true) and food freedom is being sacrificed in the name of “safety.” A quote from the end of the article: “This is the state of food freedom in America today: It’s being sacrificed in the name of food safety.” But this is not about safety. This was about (1) seizing power, which benefits federal and local governments and provides justification for their growth, (2) eliminating the competition for the rent-seeking corporate state, meaning the big business-big government alliance, (3) displaying the omnipotent power of the enforcement state (militarized police and federal/state agencies), and (4) affirming rejection of any individual’s right to self-ownership, and thus making the case that we are subjects to be ruled down to the level of our behaviors and personal lifestyle choices. There was no tyranny of good intentions here. Big Food-Big Agra is a state-sponsored industry cartel.
Another analysis I have not heard mentioned is that this raid was, in fact, a test case for the new powers granted to the FDA under the Food Safety Modernization Act. Yet, when I wrote about this totalitarian decree just one year ago (see #1 here and #2 here), I received emails from libertarianoids stating that my concern was overstated and misplaced. Umm, okay.
Food freedomist author and blogger Dave Gumpert, had this interesting comment on his blog:
I’m beginning to wonder: Is the cruelty of depriving your population of essential foods a war crime? If there were a real war going on, with guns firing, it could be. A United Nations panel has accused the Sri Lanka military of war crimes for denying food to civilians in a war zone.
We’re certainly edging closer to war here, as guns have been drawn in the war on Rawesome (see photo above). For now, the answer to government attacks on food distribution is to go underground, avoid fixed locations like the Rawesome outlet in Venice, CA. In the meantime, perhaps we should be gathering names for possible war crimes actions against those guilty of this basest of crimes–stealing the people’s food.
Rawesome had been raided previously (in 2010) and here is a very telling – and almost pathetically comical – video of cops barging into an organic-natural food store, with guns drawn. “Skirting past the arugula and peering under crates of zucchini, they found the raid’s target inside a walk-in refrigerator: unmarked jugs of raw milk.”