March 5, 2009
Gene Wright, Manager
Milk and Dairy Group,
Texas Department of State Health Services
P.O. Box 149347 MC 1987
Austin, Texas 78714-9347
Dear Mr. Wright,
Thank you for soliciting comments on the draft proposed rule changes affecting milk and dairy.
Like many of my friends and neighbors, I am very concerned about health and food quality and have educated myself on the most healthful foods for my family.
I am a raw milk and raw cheese consumer. I am concerned that the changes you are proposing will make it much harder for families like my own to obtain this very valuable food. And I am equally concerned about the impact on the these changes will have on the numerous small producers.
First, I would like to say that I am in favor of making raw milk more easily available to consumers. The current rules that require buyers drive to the dairy farm location to purchase their weekly allotment is a great hardship and, in my opinion, out of step with the efforts to reduce fuel consumption due to economic and climate concerns. I am in favor of allowing the producer to make deliveries to his customer base, to pick up points in the city, customer's homes or farmer's markets. So, you can imagine that I am very concerned about the proposed requirement that the sale be made at the farm and only to the final buyer, not an agent or member of a whole food cooperative who is picking up for all the members. In my opinion, this doesn't make any sense and appears to be intentionally targeting producers and consumers of raw milk. I urge the agency to amend section 217.22 to allow Grade A raw milk producers to sell and distribute raw milk to consumers off the farm. and to delete the requirement to sell only to the final buyer.
I am also disturbed by the notion that the farmer will be required to provide a list of his buyers to the government. I imagine that this seems like a simple way to find all the consumers in the event of food contamination. But if so, I wonder why grocery stores are not required to collect the names of all the persons who buy peanut butter, or ground beef or hot peppers or any of the other food items that have, in recent times, have sickened thousands of consumers. Why pick on the few raw milk producers and raw milk consumers? I urge the agency to delete section 217.17(g).
I also would like to see Section 217.13 amended so that possession of misbranded or ungraded milk is not illegal in any location (not just the home). Those of us who feel strongly about the health providing benefits of raw milk take this milk with us as a source of food when we travel. I just returned from a short trip to the Texas Gulf Coast and carried in my cooler repackaged raw milk and raw milk products. This should not be illegal!
It appears that some of the requirements for cheese producers may not be appropriate for small, artisan cheesemakers. I urge you to re-examine these requirements for the small producer so that they are appropriate to the size and complexity of operation. Safe cheese should be determined by analyzing the final product and inspecting the facilities and processes to assure hygienic conditions, not by number of different rooms or the specialization of the cheese making equipment. Often, in cheesemaking as in other types of crafts, the highest quality is produced by the smallest operation because of the time and attention to detail paid when making the product. We should be proud of our many outstanding artisan cheesemakers in Texas and attempt to support them. Therefore, I urge you to eliminate requirements for additional cheesemaking rooms and specialized pasteurization equipment, allow for a single permit for small producers and kept the current feed schedule based on gross sales.
Mary Ann Lynch