"Liberty Cheese" - Banned in the USA!
by Fred E. Foldvary, Senior Editor
Few Americans know what really good cheese tastes like, because the U.S. government bans tasty handmade cheese made from untreated milk. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration prohibits the sale of cheese made with raw milk, which has not been aged for 60 days. If the raw-milk cheese is from France, voila, its sale is prohibited in the USA no matter how long it has been aged.
The danger of eating raw-milk cheese is similar to that of eating raw oysters, yet the latter is legal in the US. Those with higher risk of infection, such as pregnant women, should not eat raw-milk cheese, raw oysters and steak, and other foods that can harbor microbes that cause diseases. But Europeans have been eating raw-milk cheeses since ancient times, evidently with little ill effect. European cheese makers are generally careful to keep the milk uncontaminated, which minimizes the risk.
Some people don't like stinky French cheese, but gourmets consider it a great taste experience. Americans think they are eating the good stuff when they buy Brie and Camembert, but in the US, these are mere substitute imitations. The pasteurized varieties sold in the USA don't have the texture and flavor of the real French cheeses made from raw, unpasteurized milk.
Like all prohibitions, the ban on raw-milk cheese reduces the supply, but has little effect on demand. The ban on raw-milk cheese applies only to sellers, not to buyers. Since cheese lovers are willing to pay high prices for non-pasteurized cheese, it gets supplied at some cheese stores and by Web sites, including cheeses made from the milk of sheep and goats.
The FDA is now investigating how illegal cheese gets into the USA, and it is crackering down on importers and vendors. Since Americans are now calling French toast and French fries "liberty toast" and "liberty fries," I hereby propose to cheese lovers to call the non-pasteurized varieties "liberty cheese," especially since the cheesy ban violates liberty.
People have the natural right to do whatever does not coercively harm others. Eating foods that have some risk harms oneself, not others, aside from pregnancy. The Ninth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution recognizes our natural rights, so the ban on selling soft raw-milk cheese also violates the Constitution.
Some claim that the U.S. government has constitutional authority over any foreign commerce. Article I, Section 8, endows Congress with the power to "regulate commerce with foreign nations." Does that imply that anything goes, that Congress may arbitrarily impose any restriction on trade with other countries?
Just because the U.S. courts agree with a law does not make it constitutional, since judges can be mistaken and sometimes reverse the rulings of previous cases. The primary issue is, what is the spirit of the Constitution? Is it "anything goes," or is it liberty?
The preamble to the U.S. Constitution declares that its purpose is, among other things, to "secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity." The Ninth Amendment recognizes rights even if not listed explicitly in the Constitution. The interpretation of the Constitution should thus be in favor of liberty where the text is not specifically clear. Congress is explicitly endowed with the power to impose a tariff or duty on imports. But there is no power granted to it to arbitrarily restrict and prohibit trade. The power to regulate foreign trade should thus be subject to the constraints of liberty.
In times of war, Congress may prohibit trading with the enemy, as part of its war-making powers. Congress may enact trade restrictions on goods that can cause social harm, such as living beings that can do environmental damage. But it violates liberty to ban the importation and sale of a good where there is only possible harm to oneself, not to others.
Moreover, the FDA ban is on selling raw milk in general, even if not imported. There is no Constitutional authority for a U.S. government ban on selling goods that are not harmful to others. It required a Constitutional amendment to ban alcohol, a ban subsequently repealed by another amendment. Where then is the specific Constitutional authority for the U.S. government to ban drugs, hemp, or "liberty cheese"? There is none.
We need to be vigilant against on-going attempts by the FDA to make it illegal to buy liberty cheese. Gourmet cheese may seem like a minor matter, not affecting plain folks who don't mind buying a cooked, processed, packaged, salty, colored, sliced cheese product, but the crackering down on soft cheeses is part of the on-going erosion of liberty. Most people let it go on because it affects other people. But later, their own liberty may be restricted, and others likewise let it go on. Any limitation of liberty should be a concern to those who value liberty and the Constitution.
So let's call the raw-milk fromage "liberty cheese." Government's further restrictions on this cheese will then be more clearly exposed as more stinky than the cheese itself.
Links related to FDA food bans:
Psst, wanna score some cheese?
-- Fred Foldvary
Copyright 2003 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system, without giving full credit to Fred Foldvary and The Progress Report.
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