A two-and-a-half-year fight over a batch of raw milk cheese produced in Howell County, Mo., ended last week when 15 tons of the unpasteurized cheese had to be taken to the dump, the KY3 reported.
The decision in Howell County was made by the State Milk Board. The board, which falls under the state’s department of agriculture was established in 1972 to “encourage orderly and sanitary production, transportation, processing and grading of fluid milk and processed milk products for consumption intrastate as well as interstate.”
The thousands of pounds of cheese in question made by Morningland Dairy was held during the more than two year legal battle after tests of the product showed harmful bacterial contamination. But the farmers believe it was wrongly tested.
The controversy of raw milk products is not limited to Missouri. Last year, it was reported officials from the California Health Department had visited the homes of raw milk customers to confiscate the unpasteurized products. Other states have seen regulatory issues with the dairy products, which are favored by many natural food fans, as well.
Here the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, a non-profit that supports the rights of farmers, chronicled the events leading up to the cheese destruction on its blog:
The Milk Board shut down Morningland’s manufacturing operation and ordered all cheese at the facility embargoed on August 26, 2010 after receiving a report from the California Department of Food and Agriculture that Morningland cheese seized in a raid of the Rawesome food club in Venice, California in June 2010 had tested positive for Listeria monocytogenesand Staphyloccocus aureus. Not a single block of cheese in the warehouse had the same batch number as the cheese seized in the Rawesome raid. A Milk Board inspector initially told Joe Dixon that he would only be shut down for a few days—but that changed when FDA stepped up their involvement in the case a short time later and pressured the Milk Board not to let Morningland resume their operations.
On October 1, 2010 the Milk Board sent the Dixons a letter requesting that they destroy the entire inventory of cheese at the facility; when the Dixons refused, the Milk Board filed a petition in the Circuit Court of Howell County to obtain an order for the destruction of the Morningland cheese.
After a two-day trial before Judge David Dunlop, the judge issued a decision on February 23, 2011 ordering the destruction of the cheese. Morningland appealed the decision but on September 27, 2012 the Court of Appeals sided with the Milk Board. A petition to the Missouri Supreme Court to hear the case was rejected on December 18, paving the way for the destruction of the cheese to take place.
KY3 reported the Food and Drug administration tests of the cheese showed nothing out of the ordinary, while private testing showed both Staphylococcus aureus and listeria. Dixon said to KY3 that they requested a trial by jury and were denied as the rules governing the safety of the product were a regulation not a law.
This video by a friend of Dixon shows the milk board showing up on January 25 to confiscate the cheese. The county sheriff’s office is called in due to a group of protesters. Watch the nearly 15 minutes of mild confrontation that ensues between the officers and protesters:
In the video, the sheriff has to explain why officers were taking photographs of the license plates of present protesters. The sheriff says although the protesters have been peaceful, he is documenting who is present in case something were to go awry. The videographer asks if the information collected about the protesters present will be destroyed if no physical problem occurs, to which the sheriff said yes.
The officer maintained he was simply there to ensure that a court order was carried out. It is an order the protesters feel is unjust.
“If the court asked you or told you to confiscate firearms from the citizens of Howell County what would you do? It should be a simple answer,” the videographer said.
The officer said he wouldn’t answer the question.
“It hasn’t happened,” the officer said.
When the cheese was dumped, Dixon said he saw the “the destruction of what my wife and I and family have worked to build.” KY3 reported the dairy farmer saying his herd is now gone and he would fear getting a complaint and being shut down again if he were to try and restart.
KY3 contacted the milk board and the department of agriculture, which declined to comment on the case.
(H/T: Sovereign Man)
Editor’s note — We discussed this story on Friday’s BlazeCast: