As followers and members of Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) know, FTCLDF has been working for some time to overturn the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) prohibition on the interstate sales of raw butter.
FTCLDF has two important updates on this matter: First, on August 18, 2020, we are hosting a free webinar to anyone interested in learning more about the properties of raw butter and what contributes to its safety. Second, the FDA has formally filed an Answer to the federal court complaint, and I expect litigation efforts to soon begin in earnest.
Why Is FTCLDF Pushing To Reverse the FDA Ban on Interstate Sales of Raw Butter?
Members, journalists, and interested consumers have asked me this question. For those of you interested in learning more about raw butter, and why FTCLDF believes this is a healthy food, I encourage you to join our webinar on August 18, 2020 at 12:00 noon (Central).
I will be speaking with microbiologist Peg Coleman who holds two masters of science degrees, more recently in Medical Microbiology from University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine, and previously in Biology/Biochemistry from Utah State University. Peg’s expertise in microbial risk assessment began in 1992 as a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientist. She contributed to assessments for all the major foodborne pathogens while at USDA. She now consults on diverse projects targeting beneficial and harmful microbes through Coleman Scientific Consulting. A recent resume and a long list of her presentations and publications is available on her website. She has served as an expert for several National Academy of Sciences committees and provided expert testimony for raw milk, raw cheese, and raw pet food in addition to support for the raw butter case.
Peg will discuss evidence for benefits and risks of raw milk and raw butter as nutrient-dense, healthy foods. We know that raw butter is a rich source of vitamins A, D, E and K, but less well known is that raw butter is enriched in a fatty acid that can protect against gastrointestinal infections. She will also discuss evidence that raw butter poses a low risk of pathogen growth and foodborne illness, in part because of the low-moisture and high fat content in butter. Indeed, in its February 27, 2020 decision, the FDA acknowledged the low likelihood of pathogen presence and microbiological growth in certain raw butters.
Plus, raw butter just tastes really good! Learn more about the benefits and risks of raw butter in this webinar from an accomplished expert in the field.
Status of Litigation
Because raw butter is in fact a nutrient-dense food, consumers often seek raw butter from small dairy farms. Smaller producers wish to produce this food and provide it to consumers who recognize the value of the product, including those in neighboring states. Yet since 1987 and without scientific justification, the FDA has prohibited the interstate sales of raw butter.
In 2016, the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund and member Mark McAfee filed a Citizen Petition seeking that FDA reverse this ban. The FDA failed to respond and in October 2019, FTCLDF and McAfee filed a lawsuit to compel the FDA to respond to their Citizen Petition. On February 27, 2020, the FDA issued a decision denying the petition, and continuing its prohibition on interstate sales of raw butter. Yet in its decision, the FDA failed to consider its 2017 Draft Guidance Report in which it confirmed that low water activity (such as found in raw butter) and certain pH levels (such as those in raw butter), prevent pathogen growth. Perhaps most disturbingly, the FDA did not rely on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data to justify the ban on raw butter, but created its own history of alleged raw butter illness from 1908 to date, in which it could only cite one alleged outbreak linked specifically to raw butter in the U.S. in 2001-02.
FTCLDF and McAfee have now challenged the FDA’s decision in court. On July 24, 2020, the FDA filed its Answer to the Complaint in federal court, and now the litigation will begin in earnest. In this answer, the FDA defends its February 27 decision and its prohibition on the interstate sale of raw butter.
How to Learn More and Be Involved
FTCLDF will soon be providing details on registration for its August 18, 2020 webinar. If you are interested in learning more about the benefits and risks of raw butter but are not on our email list, please join our list HERE. In addition to information about the webinar, you will receive regular (but not too regular!) notifications about legal successes and policy efforts of the FTCLDF, as well as general information relevant to regenerative agriculture, artisanal food production, and the U.S. food system.
YOUR FUND AT WORK
Services provided by FTCLDF go beyond legal representation for members in court cases.
Educational and policy work also provide an avenue for FTCLDF to build grassroots activism to create the most favorable regulatory climate possible. In addition to advising on bill language, FTCLDF supports favorable legislation via action alerts and social media outreach.