Estrella Family Creamery Seized by the FDA--Why does this matter?

Have you heard about Estrella Family Creamery on the Washington coast?  This award-winning, internationally recognized artisan creamery was seized by the FDA for it's raw milk cheese, despite the fact no one was harmed in 25 years of cheese making.

If you live in Oregon or Washington you may have enjoyed Estrella Family Creamery cheeses in a restaurant or purchased them from a high-end supermarket.  These delectable cheeses are shipped all over the country.  I visited the farm, which is efficiently run by the Estrella family.  The cheeses are fantastic in flavor and texture, worthy of the international attention they have garnered.  

Below is a link to the podcast interview with Kelly Estrella, who tells you what happened at her farm:

Film footage of similar actions in US farms:

In reading and listening to the reports it was as if the FDA and the Creamery spoke two different languages.  The FDA spoke in the language of its understanding of the microbiology of individual pathogens acting alone in pasteurized milk.  The Creamery spoke the language of hundreds of years of artisan cheese making, from Europe to the United States, using probiotic cultures in raw (unpasteurized) milk.

I understand the FDA's caution about single pathogenic (illness-making) bacteria.  The problem, from my standpoint, is that a culture of a single pathogenic bacteria acting alone behaves very differently from a pathogen that contaminates a mixed culture of probiotic organisms (please see the studies mentioned below).  When a pathogen invades pasteurized, uncultured cheese, it acts alone.  The heat of pasteurization kills probiotics found naturally in fresh (raw) milk.  With no probiotics (human-friendly bacteria) to counter its effects, the pathogen has free reign in the human body, causing serious illness and sometimes death.   Pathogens that encounter active probiotic cultures, on the other hand, are assailed by human-friendly bacteria that produce antibiotics against it.  

While I am not in favor of receiving any pathogens in my food, I'd far rather be exposed to one overwhelmed by probiotics that can suppress its growth and protect me from its effects.  As you can see from the reports of raw cheese studies that follow, probiotic cheese cultures inhibit pathogens.  Raw milk cheeses can even prevent food poisoning.

Please listen to the podcast linked above.  If you write a blog or tweet on Twitter, please tell others about this situation.  And if you have a few extra dollars and are so inclined, do not hesitate to donate to the Estrella Family, who can no longer sell their cheese, face steep attorney's fees and now depend on the good will of others.  To do so will not only help this farm family, but may lead to actions that protect our access to high quality artisan cheeses while ensuring their safety.

Thank you.

More stories about Estrella Family Creamery:

FDA attacks Estrella Family Creamery near Seattle with another Morningside Dairy style raid -- The Bovine

Please Help Estrella Family Creamery « Seattle Local Food

FDA ramps up scrutiny on a new area: Cheese --Washington Post

Other articles of interest:

Study:  Microbes Aid Raw Milk Cheese Safety

Study:  Feta Cheese Made From Raw Milk Has Natural Anti-food-poisoning Properties --Reported by Science Daily News

Study:  Cheese -- acting as 'carrier' for probiotic bacteria -- found to improve immune response of elderly

Study:  Effect of Milk Pasteurization on Flavor Properties of Seven Commercially Available French Cheese Types - Chambers - 2010 - Journal of Sensory Studies