Rawesome was raided again. In a multi-agency effort, the private natural foods buying club as well as a local farm was raided again as part of a year-long sting operation that ended with three arrests: one farmer, one chapter leader of the Weston A Price Foundation and one coordinator of a private natural foods buying club. The three, James Stewart, Sharon Palmer and Victoria Bloch are being held on recommended bail of $123,000, $121,500 and $60,000, respectively.
rawesome raided again
The private natural foods buying club, Rawesome of Venice, California was raided again by local law enforcement officials who discarded $10,000 in raw milk products, seized cash, computers and product. Rawesome is no stranger to armed raids by SWAT teams as, in a widely publicized 2010 raid on the buying club, law enforcement officials entered the private buying club with guns drawn (see the video). It is this raid on Rawesome that also caused subsequent raids and seizure of $250,000 in raw milk cheeses at Morningland Dairy out of Missouri, though their cheese were never associated with illness or outbreak.
This morning, August 3rd, 2011, Rawesome was raided once more as part of a year-long sting that also targeted Healthy Family Farms, a Ventura, California county farm which supplies both the buying club Rawesome as well as area farmers markets. Healthy Family Farms is run by Sharon Palmer, who works closely with Stewart and who employs Victoria Block, a chapter leader of the Weston A Price Foundation, part-time. Healthy Family Farms, though managed by Palmer, was purchased by means of private investment from Rawesome members.
Victoria Bloch, a part-time employee of Healthy Family Farms, was also arrested early in the morning of August 3rd, 2011. Her husband discusses the arrest in the video below. (If you’re reading this post via email, be sure to click through to the site to view the videos and download the full list of charge’s from the DA’s office.)
rawesome & healthy family farms raid: the charges
In a 21-page felony complaint, the Los Angeles county district attorney’s office outlines the charges against Stewart, Palmer and Bloch. Palmer and Stewart are charged with processing milk without pasteurization, operating an unlicensed milk plant, conspiring to and committing the crime of unsanitary conditions and operating an unlicensed business. All three are charged with conspiring to sell raw milk unlawfully and selling unlabeled and improperly labeled foods. Stewart, alone, was charged with failing to keep eggs stored at proper temperature – a misdemeanor, and removing a closure notice put in place by the Los Angeles county health officer.
view the full 21-page complaint against rawesome & happy family farms below
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rawesome & healthy family farms raid: perspectives
Both Rawesome and Healthy Family Farms operated by private contract; as is the case for many raw milk operations. Raw milk, kefirs, cheeses and yogurts were provided to members who signed member agreements stating that they completely reject and refuse all government food standards, and, instead, rely on the judgment of the board of directors to oversee and manage the preparation, handling and packaging of the raw foods sold to members. And, in this way, members of Rawesome don’t share the government’s perception that the group acted as a storefront, but, rather, feel that the group acted by private treaty and selling only to private members.
Such contracts and buying clubs are not unknown and are operated undercover through similar means in many states. Fundamentally believing in food freedom and the liberty to consume foods of their choice, members of similar groups enjoy access to contraband foods like raw milk products, operating in somewhat of a legal grey area.
Raw milk, it should be noted, is legal for retail sale in California, but private herd share arrangements operating in the state have become a target of multiple recent stings, and not isolated to Rawesome or Healthy Family Farms.
rawesome raid: a crackdown against raw milk & food freedom
While the complaint and charges compiled against Stewart, Palmer and Bloch focus primarily on lack of licensure, the press release issued by the District Attorney’s office illustrates that the raid’s target was raw milk and that the lack of permitting seems to be an excuse to target the sale of raw milk:
The press release focuses heavily on discussing the perceived detriments of raw milk, stating,“Pasteurization kills or slows the growth of pathogens and microbes and it must be accomplished according to state standards under sanitary conditions. The process involves the heating of milk to a high temperature for a specific time and then cooling it immediately. The manufacture and sale of unpasteurized milk products poses a risk of pathogenic contamination. Those pathogens include salmonella, listeria, e-coli, staphylococcus aureus and tuberculosis.” (view the full press release here.)
Were the greatest issue lack of permits, why does the District Attorney’s office feel compelled to issue a statement on the perceived risk of raw milk?
In a press release issued by the Weston A Price Foundation, Pete Kennedy of the Farm-to-consumer Legal Defense Fund says, “It is apparent that there is an orchestrated effort on the part of public health officials to curb raw dairy access in California, and around the nation.”
taking action to protect food freedom
The raids against Rawesome and Healthy Family Farms are components of a much broader issue: your right to choose the foods that you feel nourish your body the best. During the raid, raw foods enthusiasts and Rawesome members came together in support of food freedome and tomorrow, an additional protest is scheduled at the District Court. A protest rally on the Los Angeles Courthouse Steps is planned for 8:00am tomorrow morning, when the three food rights activists are before the judge. Citizens concerned about access to healthy, locally produced foods are urged to attend.
If you’re in LA, go to the rally:
- When: August 4th, at 8:00 AM Pacific Time
- Where: Los Angeles Courthouse Steps (210 West Temple Street, Los Angeles)