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Another Assault on Consumer Food Choices

December 5, 2008

The most recent one I’m talking about is an incident in La Grange, Ohio that was carried out on December 1. A SWAT team, along with the Ohio Department of Agriculture raided the home of the Stowers family, who have run the Manna Storehouse for years. The Manna Storehouse is a well-known food co-operative in the Cleveland area. The Stowers family–adults, children and toddlers–were kept in the living room, guarded with guns for approximately 9 hours while their computer, cell phones, customer records and about $10,000 of food was confiscated and the co-operative was virtually shut down.

It looks like this was started by an inquiry into non-meat industry meat that was found in a freezer at Oberlin college and was traced back to Manna Storehouse. This meat was purchased by a student group at Oberlin who had joined the co-op in order to purchase natural, organic foods in bulk. When it was traced back to Manna Storehouse, the co-op contacted the ODA to get assistance in complying with state law. Instead of a response from the ODA, it is alleged by the Stowers that a man tried to infiltrate the co-op and when he was denied he came back several times and also that this man was with the team raiding their home; that he had been an undercover ODA agent.

I have found articles/posts regarding this raid at these links and you can probably find more by Googling:

They haven’t said that this was about raw milk, but apparently the ODA has tried to crack down on raw milk farmers by having sting operations and Manna Storehouse also provided raw milk products in addition to other natural and organic foods.

This type of abuse of power really disgusts me for many reasons. First is that we should have the freedom to buy and consume the food products that we choose. I think that it is a consumer’s job to research what they are buying and consuming with honest labeling being a requirement. If, after doing research, a person decides to buy, say, raw milk or farm raised meat, why should that provider have to live in fear of having their business shut down. I know a few farming families and know that this is a legitimate fear of at least some of them.

How can it be possible to go to the grocery store and load up my cart with Doritos, Cokes and Twinkies without that grocery store or the food manufacturers fearing any repercussions and I go to my local raw milk farm, who isn’t allowed by law to advertise their product, has to label that it can contain harmful organisms, the product is much more expensive because they don’t receive subsidies and they also have to worry that they could be shut down?? Why doesn’t the corporate food industry have to label foods with a label saying that this contains trans-fats or antibiotics and hormones or genetically modified organisms and can sicken you?

If we don’t have flourishing small farms and food providers, then who is controlling our food supply? Big business and government, that’s who. My local farmers see me weekly or possibly monthly and know my family and children. I believe they have higher standards because there are faces attached to those consumers and they are presenting their products directly to us and must stand behind it personally. They are business people and want to make a profit, but they are also personally involved with their customers. For big ag business and food processors, we are just another faceless consumer. If our child sickens from their food, they don’t care unless we happen to file a lawsuit or convince others to stop purchasing their food. And that is the bottom line on the attacks against small farmers. More and more people are turning towards local producers and natural foods and big food business is terrified that their profits are going to continue to be affected, especially as our economy worsens and people tighten their belts.

People have power and we have the power to change things by griping and voicing our disgust and taking our dollars somewhere else. If many people complain about raids like this, then we can make a difference. Motrin took down a babywearing ad that many mother felt was offensive because of a viral internet complaint campaign. It was pulled less than two days after it first aired because of a huge number of blogging and Twittering mothers. That is just an example of something that was annoying, not something that is truly scary, but if we all raise our voices when abuse of power occurs, I believe that we can also make ourselves heard.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Lisa permalink
    December 6, 2008 1:16 pm

    I think “Abuse of Power” about sys it all! There is no excuse for that kind of behavior!

    Boy, am I steamed now!

  2. Angelina permalink
    December 6, 2008 4:02 pm

    What I don’t understand is why they felt they needed to use guns to corral the family? That seems so extreme- it isn’t like a drug raid for crying out loud. How scary for them.

    Yes, that angers me too. I think it’s ridiculous what crap (even dangerous crap) can be sold to consumers with no labeling (GMO produce) yet farmers can’t sell healthy meat and dairy without great risk. Ridiculous!!

  3. Prairie Momma permalink
    December 6, 2008 7:50 pm

    Oh, come on, Lisa. You seem to think the phrase “We the people…” is accurate when it has been changed to “We the sheeple…” We don’t live in a free country – so quit kidding yourself. We have so many regulations in the food industry it is scary. The hoops that we have to jump through in order to sell our bulls to other ranchers is scary – and the tracking that the USDA does on our operation….remind me to tell you the long story of my conversation with the regional USDA Supervisor on a survey we HAD to fill out (very invasive, I might add). What ever happened to our right of privacy?? Talk about fears there. What about our fears for homeschooling our children?? What about our fears for attending church and believing God’s Word is truth? What about our fears when we actually speak up against these kinds of abuses??? I do fear that we’ll be seeing more and more of those kinds of raids for so many reasons. I am glad that you posted this, though, because it does give us the opportunity – while we are still free to do so – to write our Congressmen and Senators about these kinds of abuses. We aren’t a communist country……yet……

  4. Lisa permalink
    December 6, 2008 8:10 pm

    Lisa-No kidding! We should all be steamed.

    Angelina-Crazy isn’t it?

    Cathy-Whoa there! I’m not under any mistaken belief that we are a truly free country. But it has gotten this way because people don’t stand up and say, hey, this is wrong. We mostly just tune into our weekly sitcoms and eat our crap food that has been legitimized by the USDA as healthy, even if it has been robbed of nutrients by excessive processing and premature harvesting. Then we hope that our politicians will do their best to keep our best interests in mind when voting for laws, without taking care to inform ourselves and become active in the process.

    I’m not in the midst of farming or ranching so I don’t have first hand knowledge, but I can imagine that dealing with the USDA is a nightmare. And why all the intrusive questioning? To provide safer food? I think not. If that was the goal then the USDA wouldn’t prevent a small, private meat processor from testing all their cattle for Mad Cow disease before slaughter. But this could go on and on and I know that we are both on the same page.

    That was the goal of this post to make people stop and say, What?? Why would something like this be allowed to happen? Maybe somebody else will decide to post or write about the Stowers family and we will spread the word that abuses like this are happening and just unpublicized.

  5. Evelyn permalink
    December 7, 2008 1:14 pm

    Lisa, I totally agree with you that things got this way because people just sat by and let it happen. We all have to speak up and stand up for the changes we want. I still believe we can make a difference and I have seen it happen. Congrats to you for posting this and I hope a lot of people read it and give them courage to speak up.
    The raid was horrible to start with, but using guns was just an added abuse of power I think.

  6. Mon permalink
    December 7, 2008 4:36 pm

    A SWAT team!!??

    Isn’t it amazing what financial motivations will achieve?

  7. Lisa permalink
    December 8, 2008 3:09 am

    Yes, a SWAT team. Can you believe it?

    Thanks Mom!

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