Rawsome: New Targets in the Ongoing Raids against Organic Food Cooperatives

Posted on 07. Sep, 2011 by in Business & Policy, Politics

On August 3rd, the Federal Government led concurrent armed raids jointly conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Centers for Disease Control, and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. The targets of these raids were a Venice, CA organic food cooperative, Rawesome Foods, and a sustainable, pasture-based farm, Palmer’s Healthy Family Farms in Santa Paula, CA.

It is yet another in a series – like the suit against Missouri’s Armand Bechard or the raid on Ohio’s Jacqueline and John Stower – of recent state and Federal moves to seemingly curtail independent, small, local, organic farming operations and associated consumption.

Going even beyond the parameters of their broad-based warrant, agents cleared shelves and refrigerators and seized thousands of dollars in cash, computers, member information, supplies of raw milk, cheese, and various produce, some of it destroyed on the spot. Rawesome was left with no inventory. Police arrested Rawesome owner James Stewart, Palmer Farms owner Sharon Palmer, and a Palmer employee, Eugenie Victoria Bloch. The three face multiple charges, including conspiracy to sell raw (i.e., not pasteurized) dairy products.

Although Rawesome Foods does not sell to the public, authorities are basing their action on the contention that they broke applicable laws by failing to have permits to sell to the public. Rawesome isn’t a typical grocery store; it is a members-only operation with annual fees and service charges for individuals whose prerogative is to obtain and consume unprocessed products directly from local farmers.

However, Government authorities fixate on their contention that such products can transmit disease to those ingesting them. These raids raise a number of concerns, such as prohibition of commerce, interference in private, voluntary contractual arrangements, theft, property destruction, computer hacking, and intimidation. As the organic food industry rises, increasing market share with growth exceeding $28.6 billion in 2010, one has to wonder if this has been spurred in part by interests keen to preclude competition.

The principals involved have been given gag orders as a condition of their release and they have not responded to requests for comment.


Photos By: Vera Kratochvil

Additional reading:







Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply