Police raid raw food cooperative

August 5, 2011

Raw food enthusiasts in California took a hit this week as police raided a Venice Beach cooperative, removing $70,000 of raw, organic produce and dairy products from the shelves and placing the goods onto the back of a flatbed truck. [New York Times]

On Thursday, James Stewart, proprietor of Rawsome, was arraigned on charges of illegally making, improperly labeling and selling raw milk products, as well as other charges related to the co-op’s operations.

Two farmers who work with Rawsome were also named in the district attorney’s complaint.

Though it is legal to sell unpasteurized milk products in California, Rawesome, which has operated in Venice for more than six years, never obtained a license to do so — or, indeed, any type of business license.

A trustee at Rawsome said a license wasn’t obtained because the operation was not a store but a “club” in which members paid an annual fee to peruse the shelves and purchase selected items.

They also signed waivers indicating they understood the risks of consuming raw foods.

The raid on Rawesome has riled people here who say that unpasteurized milk is safer and healthier. About 150 raw food advocates gathered at the Los Angeles County Courthouse on Thursday to oppose the crackdown.

“It’s our right to choose what we want to put in our bodies,” said Lela Buttery, a trustee. “When members filled out an application, they were saying they wanted natural bacteria in their systems. We don’t want labeling. We don’t want animals full of antibiotics.”

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