Sen. Briggs represents the raw milk nazis

by Horatio Bunce

Sen. Richard Briggs has introduced a bill (SB-015) in an attempt to make consuming milk from hooved animals illegal if you own a partial interest in the animal. I guess it could be argued that if you own full interest you also own partial interest. Or if you and your husband/wife or you and your brother own a herd of dairy cows, you only own a partial interest in them. Or if you have a farm loan for the animals, you only have a partial interest. It doesn’t seem well thought-out, but the target is stealing the produce from the dairy animals of partial owners – specifically cow share arrangements that allow folks to consume raw milk. You do remember Richard don’t you? He’s the state Senator that didn’t live in the Senate district where he was running for election and had a fake “residence” apartment he used to qualify illegally. Stacey Campfield requested the utility bills for the apartment and found it was using almost no water and the gas service was not connected. Or, maybe Richard doesn’t take baths, wash his clothes or flush his toilet very often. Which makes it funny he is so concerned about this issue that boils down to cleanliness.

Because let’s face it, we are primarily talking about small kids under 4 years old getting E. coli infections by eating poop. Guess what? They put stuff in their mouths a lot – fingers, toys, anything to teethe on at the moment. They are also a good height to look a big dog right in the mouth. Guess what? Dogs eat poop too – chicken poop, cow poop, goat poop, their own poop. Guess what the next couple of doggie kisses do….These age kids also are probably learning to use the bathroom by themselves (instead of on themselves) and hopefully use more water than Richard and wash their hands afterward. Here’s another thought: animal poop gets stuck on your shoes. Sometimes you track it other places and it dries and gets deposited at another place. Maybe kids play there later. Or they take off their own shoes with poop on them – and then put stuff in their mouths. People with farm animals use muck boots for a reason – and they typically don’t wear them all through the house.

I am sure Richard can recruit somebody from the TN Department of Health to propagandize on his behalf for the bill because they are raw milk nazis. Did you know that the state government of Tennessee has a bias against raw milk? The Department of Health has issued multiple press releases demonizing it. So has the Knox County Health Department. They have often participated in media coverage of E. coli outbreaks that assume raw milk to be the source of an outbreak, throwing in their standard scare mongering before any test results are available – saying the E. coli infections are “linked to consumption of raw milk from such-and-such dairy”.  Then after the dairy business’ reputation is destroyed in the court of public opinion, they report that no E. coli evidence at all was found in the milk samples they tested (See the McBee Dairy raid from 2013).  The local media join in on these beat downs by quoting the professionals and rarely will do any follow up after the damage has been done. Even if they do report that all the tests of the milk samples came back negative a few weeks later, the  Health Department will usually get a quote in the article that their E. coli tests aren’t reliable and raw milk is really hard to test because parts of a sample can be contaminated and still not show a positive test result. In other words, they have zero evidence to pin this outbreak on the milk itself, but have already poisoned the well with the bias against raw milk and slink away never finding the truth but leave the public with the idea that raw milk kills kids. They also typically fail to report that the Department of Health does in-depth research on other known customers consuming milk in the same time period – and yet found none of those other raw milk customers from the same time period with E. coli infections. This is explained away also: that people with good, mature immune systems (or who don’t put poopy fingers in their mouths) can fight off the E. coli (which must be in the raw milk – because they think it is but can’t prove it), but small children cannot – who happen to be all the victims of the outbreak. Outlaw Raw Milk! It’s for the children!

The other phrase associated with these investigations is DNA fingerprinting. As in, “we didn’t find any E-coli in the milk samples, but we tested the cow manure on the farm and found a DNA fingerprint match to the E. coli strain in the victims”. This sounds really compelling, like there is cow poop in the milk (even though their testing didn’t find any), and <gasp> it is a DNA “match” to the cow’s poop on the same farm. That isn’t how it works. Bacterial DNA isn’t the same as ours (I guess that is obvious) in that this “fingerprint” is not a guaranteed match. It is the same strain of E. coli, but not necessarily from that source. It is circumstantial evidence at best.

Briggs’ bill appears to be a “do something” kneejerk reaction to an E-coli outbreak in Knox County from last year. Last May, the Knox County Health Department was investigating an E. coli outbreak and quickly found fault with the French Broad Farms cow share and the typical raw milk beat down was on. However, at the same time, children were getting sick at The Kids Place, a day care with goats, dogs and geese on the property – and all but unreported – cattle next door. All of the reported victims were children except for one adult, with the day care kids being infants and toddlers under age 3. Notice how this was covered initially by the Knoxville News Sentinel and how the two businesses are treated, both by the Sentinel and the Health Department:


June 5th: Close to 10 children hospitalized for E. coli; ‘raw’ milk, farm animals may be sources


East Tennessee Children’s Hospital said Tuesday it’s treated “close to 10″ children, all younger than 4, for a “serious outbreak” of E. coli-caused illness over the past 10 days. 

The Knox County Health Department has confirmed two likely sources of the outbreak are unpasteurized milk and farm animals.

Most of the ill children are known to have consumed raw milk from a local cow-share dairy, French Broad Farm in Knox County, the health department said in an alert issued Tuesday evening. The health department recommends consumers dispose of all raw milk or other unpasteurized products they may have from this farm.

People need to be aware that if they choose to drink raw milk, they’re taking a risk,” said Dr. Martha Buchanan, health department director.

The health department is also investigating whether any of the affected children were exposed to E. coli after interacting with farm animals at a local child care facility. The facility, which officials declined to name, is not currently operating, Buchanan said.”


“Close to 10” huh? So is that 9 or 11 or something less close? It is clear that at this point, the Health Department knows the day care kids are not raw milk drinkers from French Broad Farm as they speculate the E. coli outbreak is from two different sources. The bulk of the quotes are spent demonizing raw milk and that choosing to drink it is a risk and consumers should throw it all away. They won’t even give the name of the day care business. No recommendations to avoid day cares? Not even day cares that have farm animals? Should the day care business be identified so that parents can protect their children from the animal poop they eat there? I guess it isn’t a risk?


June 6th: In the wake of E. coli outbreak linked to French Broad Farm, some ask what ‘raw milk’ is


“Raw” milk is milk that hasn’t been pasteurized. Health officials from almost every agency and organization warn it often contains dangerous bacteria that can sicken or even kill people: E.coli, salmonella, listeria and campylobacter, to name a few.”


This article starts out of the gate with Raw Milk is Evil and then attempts to present a journalistic approach giving some quotes from other cow share operators and explains that the Cruze family has shut down their Facebook page for French Broad Farms. The conclusion is that the cow share operators are nice and all, but it is just too risky, no way to eliminate all the risk, etc. Then there is a non-update on E. coli source #2:


“The health department is also investigating whether any of the affected children were exposed to E. coli after interacting with farm animals at a local child care facility. The facility, which officials declined to name, is not currently operating, health department director Dr. Martha Buchanan said.


Notice the other business outbreak location is again afforded anonymity with a simple rehash of yesterday’s statement. There will be no coverage of prevalence of day care sicknesses or if this day care has a Facebook page I guess.


July 6th – a full month later and all the test results are in: In ‘rare’ instance, E. coli outbreak traced to 2 separate sources, health department says


A cluster of 15 E. coli infection cases last month, all among children, came from two different sources, Knox County Health Department investigators have concluded — a somewhat unusual outcome.

The Health Department announced Friday that two different strains of E. coli O157 sickened the children, nine of whom were hospitalized and seven of whom developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a severe complication that affects the kidneys and occurs in 5 percent to 10 percent of infected people. One child remains hospitalized, now in fair condition, at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital.

Though there’s been one new case of “secondary” E. coli infection in an adult, who contracted it from one of the ill children, the outbreak appears to be over, as no new transmissions are occurring, Health Department Director Dr. Martha Buchanan said.”


Ten of the 15 ill children had one common link: they consumed raw milk from French Broad Farm in East Knox County. State lab results confirmed these children had the same strain of E. coli O157, and confirmed also that this strain is a DNA fingerprint match to the E. coli O157 found in cow manure samples collected from French Broad Farm.

Though the lab did not find E. coli O157 in the raw milk samples, that’s not uncommon and doesn’t mean the milk the children drank was not contaminated, Buchanan said. E. coli bacteria do not distribute themselves uniformly in milk, meaning a portion of even the same glass of milk can be contaminated while another portion is not, she said, which is why raw milk’s safety can’t be guaranteed, even if a dairy takes precautions, including testing the milk.  When you think about raw milk practices, the udders and the feces are in close proximity to one another, so it’s easy for contamination to happen. …  It’s not the fault of the dairy operator. Raw milk is just inherently unsafe.”

So, see, there was no E. coli found in the milk, but that doesn’t mean anything because we found E. coli in the manure with our tests – that we say are no good even if the dairy does them. So by drinking the milk, which we found no E. coli in, these people definitely were infected by the E. coli in the milk, even though we didn’t find any.

Uhh, okay, sure. So, does this also mean you didn’t find any other customers of French Broad Farms suffering from E. coli infection since you hunted them all down? And what about the day care that you refused to identify a month ago?


The other five ill children had only one common link: attending the same child care facility, Kids Place Inc. in Mascot, where goats are present. State lab results confirmed these five children had the same strain of E. coli O157, and that it was a DNA match to the E. coli O157 found in goat fecal samples and one hay sample collected from the child care center. The lab didn’t find E. coli O157 in other environmental samples from inside the facility.

Eureka! Those babies must have escaped, crawled outside and suckled those goats! Because we all know that Raw Milk is Evil and when you find E. coli in the animal manure that means the people drank their raw milk! So are all day cares inherently dangerous? How about just the ones with farm animals or poop-eating dogs around? Does this day care feed goat poop to the kids? If the inside of the facility tested all clean, how did the babies get to the goat poop outside? Do E. coli tests performed at day cares also produce false negatives like you claim raw milk tests do? Isn’t it too dangerous to take the risk of using a day care even though the operators clean everything really good inside?


See what I mean? It sounds all scientific, but they protect certain E. coli outbreaks while demonizing others. But wait, it gets worse. A couple of months later, a follow-up article is published sympathizing with the day care because they got caught up in the SOP  Raw Milk is Evil beat down of French Broad Farms. We get more detail on the experience of the owner of The Kids Place, who like the Cruze family, is also very experienced in their business and hadn’t had anything like this happen before. You will also be reminded that there was a nationwide outbreak of the same strain of E. coli found in Romaine lettuce at the same time.

September 7: Science or ‘scapegoat’? E. coli outbreak leaves day care owners worried, frustrated

Walker traces the outbreak’s beginning to May 25, when a child in the “baby house,” a separate building where the staff of her Kids Place Inc. facility cares for infants and toddlers, had diarrhea while at the day care. Following guidelines of the Department of Human Services, which regulates child care centers in Tennessee, the child was sent home after two instances of diarrhea and needed to be diarrhea-free for 24 hours before returning….The child’s mother called on May 31, after the child had returned May 30, to notify the day care she’d just learned the child tested positive for infection with a strain of Escherichia coli O157. …The mother picked the child up, and Walker frantically called Knox County Health Department for guidance. “They said, ‘Calm down,’” Walker said, and instructed her to give parents a letter warning them to watch for and report diarrhea in their children.


What? No raid like at the McBee farm? Just mail a letter? But…but…The Children! Oh wait, you aren’t letting them drink milk from the goats are you? Ok, well never mind.


Walker spent the weekend calling all the parents, checking to see if any other children at the day care showed symptoms of E. coli infection. Ultimately, four others did — all in the baby house.

When the first child returned June 4 with a letter from a local hospital OK’ing the resumption of “full classroom activities,” Walker wasn’t sure that was right. She again called the health department, who told her to send the child home until she could verify there was a negative stool culture….

By the time the health department’s epidemiology nurse and environmentalist came with a DHS representative June 4, “we’d already washed everything” with the standard bleach-water mix, Walker said, thoroughly cleaning toys, carpets and all other surfaces.

She and the director of the baby house had even, at 6 that morning, ripped up the indoor-outdoor carpeting on the building’s porch, just in case it was contaminated.”

Well, I guess that explains why all the inside tests came back negative…funny the Health Department forgot to mention that part about all the disinfecting beforehand. Maybe if French Broad Farms could pour bleach on all the cow manure first…


Then we get the discounting of all this E. coli sampling and how imprecise and unreliable it is – because you know, we are testing a day care this time instead of a dairy:


One problem with tracking the source of E. coli is that it’s throughout the environment, and the number of organisms can vary from day to day. E. coli testing is imperfect, merely a “snapshot” of the number of bacteria present at a point in time.

It also included feces from seven pet goats kept on the property across the road, as well as the two Grand Pyrenees dogs that stayed with the goat herd, and hay from their concrete paddock….Only four specimens from the day care showed any E. coli presence: the three samples of goat feces, and one of the two hay samples.


Uh, that’s Great Pyrenees. And notice how the goats are described as “across the road” at this day care that is supposed to be offering a “farm” environment. So did they let the babies crawl across the road to get to the goat manure? Or is it the older kids who get to the goat manure and bring it back across the street?


Given that some of these illnesses have been linked to the goats at your facility, I recommend you no longer keep goats or other ruminant animals on your property, or that those who interact with the goats do not have contact with the children in your care,” Buchanan told Walker in a July 6 letter.

In addition, though the day care already had the state’s highest possible STAR rating and consistently scored 90 or higher on inspections, the health department and Walker crafted an updated “infection control policy,” which included making the baby house a “no shoes” area.”

Interesting that the Health Department is willing to acknowledge the manure can be transferred to mouth by shoes or dogs for the day care. But the dairy? No, it had to come from that raw milk that we couldn’t find any E. coli in! They even have admitted that one adult was infected by one of the babies at the day care – even though they state none of them have contact with the animals. But this is never considered for the children that had consumed raw milk from French Broad Farms. It has to the Evil Raw Milk!


“After the outbreak, Walker gave the goat herd to a friend. But the week after the health department informed her of the test results, she and her husband contacted the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine to have the goats tested again for E. coli. Dr. Marc Caldwell, assistant professor in large animal clinical sciences, remembers the test being requested merely to see if the goats were healthy, but Steve Walker said he wanted to see if this second test also would find a DNA fingerprint match between his goats and the children’s stool samples….Caldwell said the test doesn’t prove the animals didn’t have E. coli O157 when the health department tested the feces. In fact, it doesn’t prove they didn’t have it that week, since the amount of bacteria shed from an infected animal can depend on heat, stress and other factors, and a certain amount has to be present for the antigen test — which is what the lab used — to show positive.

It’s not a perfect test,” Caldwell said. “It is entirely possible (a sample) could come back positive, and then you take another sample, even if it were within a very short period of time, and that might show up as negative … just because of the very low sensitivity of the test….

Also, environmental samples are hard to interpret “because you don’t really know the source of that E. coli,” he said. “You could say that it was found within the environment, but it’s hard to say that it came from a particular source … (considering) wildlife, birds, all of the various hosts that could also be in that environment, humans included….

Walker thought there was enough time for the first child, who was at the “transition” age and spent one-half of every day in each of the two rooms where children got sick, to spread the bacteria to other children. Walker said that child’s mother said the child had eaten romaine lettuce, the subject of an ongoing national recall for E. coli contamination that spring. Most E. coli outbreaks in the United States are foodborne, commonly from eating undercooked beef that was contaminated during processing….

“Regardless, the worry of the outbreak has taken a toll on Walker, who called it a “black eye” on the day care. Particularly stressful for her was continuing media coverage, much of which she said was inaccurate. Some outlets said that children were in the pen with the goats, or that the day care was feeding children raw milk. One television station showed footage of beef cattle on property adjacent to the day care while talking about raw milk.”

It must be hell being unfairly treated like a raw milk drinker when you have an E. coli outbreak at your business. When the state and county health departments are raw milk nazis, you are just collateral damage – even though they tried to protect you for over a month. Look at the bending over backward that was done in the press though. No sympathy stories for the McBee or Cruze families – even though nothing was found in their milk.

Senator Briggs is revealing that he isn’t representing the people in this pursuit of persecuting livestock owners because, like the Knox County Health Department,  he has totally ignored the illnesses caused by the day care environment and propagated by piling so many infants/toddlers together to spread disease. There are FAR more children in day care environments than there are raw milk drinkers. Why is the state concentrating on the 2% minority again, like they have in the past persecuting home school students? This recent outbreak in Knox County nor the McBee Dairy “raid” should be used to justify the need for this bill. The evidence doesn’t support it.



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