Skip to comments.State sting interrupts dairy farmer's delivery Co-op's raw milk a potential problem[Michigan]
Posted on 11/05/2006 9:29:27 AM PST by FLOutdoorsman
Every Friday morning, about 100 people show up at the Morgan & York wine and specialty shop on Packard Street to pick up their weekly orders of raw, unpasteurized milk as well as eggs, chickens, honey and other naturally grown food delivered straight from three Michigan farms.
But last week, the members of a local food co-op waited in vain - the delivery truck never arrived. En route to Ann Arbor, poultry and beef farmer Richard Hebron of Vandalia was stopped by state police troopers, who seized his load of goods under a search warrant obtained by the Michigan Department of Agriculture.
The MDA says it is investigating possible violations of the state's food and dairy laws, including the selling of unpasteurized milk, in Washtenaw County and Cass County, where Hebron lives.
"It is illegal in the state of Michigan to sell unpasteurized milk out of a licensed retail operation,'' said Katherine Fedder, director of the MDA's food and dairy division. "It is illegal to sell misbranded products, and that includes things that have no labeling on them.''
So far, there has been no request for prosecution, Washtenaw County deputy chief assistant prosecutor Steve Hiller said Tuesday.
Authorities seized 450 gallons of Hebron's raw milk, as well as fresh cream, kefir, buttermilk, yogurt, butter, all the milk coolers, invoices for that day's distribution and his cell phone, Hebron said.
Attorney Peter Kennedy of Weston A. Price Foundation in Sarasota, Fla., who is acting as an adviser to Hebron, said the investigation was touched off last April when a Washtenaw County woman's three children became sick. She told her doctor she thought they'd become sick from pasteurized milk, but added that she also bought raw milk from the co-op.
That doctor followed up with the county health department, which passed the information on to the MDA, Kennedy said.
The MDA began a sting operation. An agent joined the co-op and bought raw milk from Hebron from May through October. The milk was tested, and found to be fine, Kennedy said.
But Fedder said whether the milk was "fine'' depends upon one's feelings about unpasteurized milk.
"The reason it's illegal for raw milk to be sold is over the health concerns,'' she said, noting that unpasteurized milk can be a particular concern for children and elderly people.
But Kennedy - whose nonprofit foundation is dedicated to restoring "nutrient-dense foods to the human diet'' - isn't buying that argument.
"If they found out about this original illness in April and suspected it was related to consumption of raw milk, why didn't they act back then?'' Kennedy asked. "If it was really about health, why did they let this product be distributed another five or six months? Actions like the MDA's interfere with the attempts of these co-op members to obtain foods they think are best for their health and the health of their families. As far as they're concerned, this is their food that was taken from them, not Richard Hebron's.''
Michigan law forbids the public sale of unpasteurized milk. But it also says people who own and board their own dairy cows have the right to consume the milk from those animals.
So the Family Farms Co-op requires its customers to actually lease part ownership of the herd. Hebron, who owns one of the three farms in the co-op, acts as an agent, delivering to co-op members the milk from their own cows raised on a dairy farm in Middlebury, Ind.
Co-op members "are compensating him for his labor and expenses in picking up the food and providing it for them,'' said Kennedy. "But the way they look at it, the co-op owns the rights to the dairy products.''
"I don't know what legal arrangements the buyer and seller have with each other in terms of who actually owns what,'' Fedder said. "All we're dealing with is the individual who is allegedly distributing these products through a licensed retail facility, as well as other misbranded foods, allegedly.''
About 250 local residents belong to the Family Farms Co-op.
For two years, co-op member Diane Thal Gluck of Ann Arbor has bought everything she can from Hebron, right down to bones for the family dog. She's convinced that raw, unpasteurized and unhomogenized milk is superior, and feels better getting her milk from cattle that are not given hormones.
"I'm outraged this is what the Department of Agriculture chooses to do with our (tax) money,'' Thal Gluck said. She said she believes the state's laws should be changed to allow for the sale of raw milk.
"It seemed that extraordinary, almost odd measures were taken against someone trying to sell a healthy product,'' her husband, Peter Gluck, said. "You can investigate, but to attempt to put a farmer out of business is a little beyond investigation. It's intimidation. We understand the issues, but this is a little harsh.''
In an e-mail to his customers, Hebron wrote that when he asked authorities why he'd been stopped, he was told he was "distributing unmarked products.'' Later, he learned that authorities also showed up at his house with a search warrant, and seized his computer.
On Friday afternoon, four inspectors from the MDA showed up with a search warrant at Morgan & York (formerly The Big Ten Party Store), which offers a rear storeroom for Hebron's distribution site. They asked for all records dealing with Hebron and copies of invoices. They also inspected the store, which passed.
"All they'd say was that they were fact-finding,'' said co-owner Tommy York. "I'm well aware we're not allowed to sell unpasteurized milk; it's illegal. But every week, we get eggs and egg noodles and popcorn and stuff like that from them. They're far superior products. And he's the farmer, so it's nice to get them right from him.''
York said Hebron's customers are a tight-knit community trying to save the family farm while buying the healthiest foods they can find.
"They're really frustrated,'' he said. "It's sort of like if you get pulled over and you were going the speed limit. You'd think, 'What's going on?' That's how everyone feels: What did we do wrong?''
Reached by phone at his farm Tuesday, Hebron said his lawyer has advised him not to talk to the news media during the investigation. He has not been charged with any criminal offense, and his farm has not been shut down.
Fedder, of the MDA, said it will be weeks before the investigation is concluded, and Hebron could face fines, criminal misdemeanor charges, and a revoked license.
In an e-mail to his customers, Hebron said he will make his regular delivery to Morgan & York this Friday, as well as his other deliveries in Birmingham and the Chicago area. But because his computer was confiscated, the only way to place orders is through his home phone number.
Katherine Czapp of Ann Arbor, a member of the co-op since it began about four years ago, is furious at the MDA.
"It's astonishing behavior, this sting operation,'' she said, noting that Michigan law supports their rights as co-owners of the cows to consume the milk as they see fit.
She said some co-op members with allergies, food sensitivities, and digestion issues depend on the regular supply of these natural farm-grown products for their health.
"They need to get clean, unprocessed food,'' she said. "There's no way to get this in a grocery store. People are at their wits' end. This arrangement was so wonderful.''
Jo Mathis can be reached at email@example.com or 734-994-6849.
Michigan has nothing better to do than taking raw milk that people want to drink. Silly.
I grew up on raw milk and so did American a few years ago.
I would think Michigan could use it's resources correctly and do a sting on a mosque or something similar.
Please Gov't. control my food sources, I want you to dictate what I can drink and consume.
We always pasteurized ours.
but we were a 1 cow herd. And I was the one doing the milking. Try and keep the germs out of a bucket of milk in a straw covered barn stall, with a crap covered tail inches away.
Welcome to The People's Republic Of Michigan. If you'd like to change things, vote for DeVoss for Governor.
...and a fine job they are doing. Michigan, isn't this state muslim central?
We gave them that power when the FDA & DEA were chartered during the Nixon administration. Elect a passel of dims and it'll get worse as we see with the smoking issue and Trans-fat. We also need to show our conservative brothers the errors of their ways by blindly supporting the thuggery committed by the war on some drug warriors. It's all interconnected.
Silly. Will the last person out of Michigan please turn out the lights.
Looks like Granholm and Debbie Stabacow are going to be relected. Looks like the Detroit vote puts them over.
I have a good job here. But when retirement comes I'm otta Michigan. Gonna go where people can still live free.
Arizona, Wyoming, maybe Montana. There aren't many free states left.
"I grew up on raw milk and so did American a few years ago."
A few years ago? It's been illegal in most places to sell unpasteurized milk for a long time, except in some places from dairies that are licensed to sell raw milk.
Recently, and fairly frequently in the past, raw milk dairies have been the source of listeria outbreaks. I remember Altadena Dairy in California. They're out of business now, if I'm not mistaken, due to one of those nasty outbreaks.
Yes, all Americans used to drink raw milk. Many of them contracted tuberculosis from it. That was why pasteurization was required by law.
You want to drink raw milk? Fine by me. Get a cow. You want to sell it...check your state laws. There may be a provision for raw milk sales. Usually that involves frequent inspections of your dairy and testing of the products on a regular basis. Plenty of government interference there.
Nothing wrong with pasteurized milk. Nothing at all.
Keep the government outta my udder.
And, as a result, our dairy food and drug prices soar more and more every year.
There's been at least two peer-reviewed reports in the last two years suggesting more than a possible link between cows infected with Johne's (Mycobacterium paratuberculosis) and humans infected with Crone's disease. Testing is possible, but issues with test sensitivity need to be considered.
NAHMS '96 noted that found that ~22 percent of US dairy farms have at least 10% of the herd infected with Johne's disease. Given that, I would carefully consider drinking raw milk from a herd not practicing Johne's management best practices.
My company's plant on Detroit's east side is closing down by the end of December. 511 jobs gone..........Its too bad because the plant has been in operation since 1919.
...and nothing wrong with raw milk, that adding a hefty shot of Scotch won't cure, if you don't mind ruining good Scotch.
TB, brucellosis, listeria, e-coli, enterobacter, and the list of possible contaminants continues.
Make mine pasteurized, please. I'll have the Scotch on the side.
Scotch and milk, eh? No thanks. I'll just take both straight up.
That's VERY interesting to me.
We bought our place 3 years ago from a kind of 'greene' couple. She had Crones, nearly died.
Long story short, they were forced to the brink of banckruptcy because of Crones, and forced to sell their place at rock bottom price.
I don't know why she got Crones, nor did she, but it would fit their lifestyle to buy raw milk. Whatever it was, it cost them an idyllic place to live.
"And, as a result, our dairy food ... prices soar more and more every year."
How much of that is because of dairy price supports, though?
The Bacterial count at the bulk tank is most often lower than at the delivery point at the factory. BUT..the longer that unprocessed milk stands, the higher the count goes. That is why they process it ASAP (for drinking milk) and get it into containers. The problem is not the process, but the containers they put it into. Light activates the bacteria in milk and the idiots put milk into these thin clear plastic jugs that are perfect for making cottage cheese in.
Here in AZ I have found a dairy that produces milk that taste exactly like fresh milk. Shamrock farms put some of their milk into a harder and non clear plastic small jug and the milk taste really good.
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