RB51 Vaccine-Related Illness, the Raw Story

FACT - Heroes from All Sides!

The Real Food Consumer Coalition (RFCC) works actively day-in and day-out to ensure that farmers know their rights and their choices when it comes to producing a quality raw dairy product and making it available to consumers who want it. Now, more than ever, our work is at the forefront of a recognized, and growing movement.

Consumers crave a relationship with those who produce their food. They want safe, clean food. And, farmers want the power to set their own prices and provide the product of their labor to a fair marketplace.

Recent headlines, propagated by the CDC, give alarming and sensationalist news about how problematic raw dairy is. The only snag is--it's not accurate. In this instance, the sensationalism was regarding a vaccine-related illness in one person in New York. Media reported that 19 people (and implying more) were infected. Dire warnings came about the dangers of raw dairy products.

The facts provide a different story:

Since the early 1960’s—when RB51 vaccination began—it is our knowledge that only three (3) cases of the RB51 vaccine-related human illness from raw milk have occurred, including the recent one reported in New York.

From the beginning, RFCC was asked to help Miller’s Biodiversity Farm (MBF), run by Amish farmer Aaron Miller, navigate a complex pathway involving the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health in helping to identify the source and a solution regarding the RB51 vaccine-related situation. Although a highly undesirable scenario, many desirable results came from the situation…

Long after invaluable scientific data was gathered with the help of the farmer, and the quarantine was lifted, a local publication, Lancaster Farming, reported on the CDC's version of the story.

However, the paper's readers were quick to respond with no fewer than 6 opinion letters to the editor about the importance of raw dairy products. Additionally, Lancaster Farming ran a poll of their readers asking how access to raw milk ranked. An overwhelming 97.1% of 3,200 respondents voted in favor of access to raw dairy.

The real story that remains to be reported is untold and many-fold:

1. This incident has broken decades old barriers, creating a professional and transparent collaboration between the PDA, RFCC, the farmer involved in this case, and many other farmers witnessing these occurrences. All parties are learning more about each other’s positions through prevailing mutual respect and an openness to learning.

2. Agencies, farmers, and organizations worked closely together to quickly uncover unknowns in providing an expedient solution for all involved. This was done through trusting opposing views that have the same end results at heart—consumer safety and a stable dairy market--one that includes a place for raw dairy.

3. The cow that was shedding the RB51 vaccine-related bacteria was relocated to a CDC national research facility to live out her life in leisure while providing invaluable information regarding the RB51 vaccine-related bacteria.

4. There are a plethora of heroes threaded throughout this story. The ill stricken person and family, Aaron Miller and his family, the PDA, PA DoH, skeptical farmers and the many consumers that waited patiently for factual information while still supporting their producers—involved or not.

Raw milk is what many farmers want to produce and what consumers are showing they want through their purchasing power. Through advocacy, education, and awareness, we can build the future we all want in the dairy industry with the greater Lancaster area being the new dairy model for quality production and healthy products nation wide.