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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Raw Milk Poster Boy, Hartmann, Ordered to Destroy Unsanitary Products

Screen shot 2010-12-22 at 3.41.49 PM.pngIn the Order, the Court also found that Hartmann was the source of the E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks that sickened eight, hospitalizing four – one with Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome.

The real question is when are raw milk producers and supporters going to police their own?  The order is a shock for those who profess that “knowing your farmer” will make food safe.  Here are some highlights of what was going on at the farm:

  • Extreme buildup of manure on virtually every surface in the dairy barn.
  • Thick layers of cobwebs and dust coated the dairy barn ceiling.
  • The milk house ceiling was water damaged and crumbling, a milk house wall was damaged, apparently by water, and not easily cleanable, and the floor was pitted and pooling liquids.
  • Dead flies in cobwebs clung to the milk house walls and live flies were abundant.
  • The exterior of the bulk tank and the floor behind it were notably dirty.
  • The milking equipment, pipeline system, receiving jar, bulk tank and cleaning sinks were observed to have buildup inside and out.
  • Flies and their droppings covered surfaces like the pipeline exterior.
  • Milking equipment, such as the milker claws, which come in direct contact with milk, was improperly stored in the sink.
  • Dead animals were observed in and around the dairy barn.
  • Chickens roamed the milking barn and milk house.
  • Barn and milk house doors were not tight fitting to exclude insects and other pests and stood open.
  • Junk and weedy areas that provide harborage for insects and rodents were found in the milking barn and around the milk house and dairy plant.
  • Dairy plant equipment, such as the butter packager, bottle washer and ice cream maker, was observed to be rusty and corroded or in otherwise unacceptable condition.
  • Rodent droppings were found in the dairy plant’s utility room, through which people and product pass through from the bottling room to the rest of the dairy plant, and in the storage area above the processing areas.

“Know your farmer”

  • chris

    I live in MN and my understanding is that he’s very anti-government in the writing manifestos and the going out of his way to thumb his nose at anyone who would tell him what to do kind of way. That is to say: people in the community and industry have tried to get him to behave. He doesn’t care.

  • Sam

    Unfortunately, no amount of legislation will prevent criminal stupidity as demontrated by Mr. Hartmann. However, I believe he should not only be allowed to eat the putrid food he produces, he should be REQUIRED to eat all of it!

  • Mary McGonigle-Martin

    Reading this report makes me so angry!!!!!

  • Bill, any chance you could ask Michael Pollan to stop saying that O157:H7 is a feedlot disease, as he has done in The New York Times Magazine, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and the movie Fresh? I’m as anti-feedlot as anybody, but Hartmann’s story (not to mention the published literature) shows that grass-fed cattle aren’t immune.

  • I have been working on that for some time – http://www.marlerblog.com/lawyer-oped/grass-fed-vs-grain-fed-beef-and-the-holy-grail-a-literature-review/
    I am working on re-doing the above and more specifically on the feedlot issue.

  • Tim Lukens

    Knowing your farmer only works if a person is willing to exercise some common sense and walk away from an unlicensed uninspected pig pen. At best in a well maintained, licensed and inspected operation, raw milk is an illness waiting to happen.

  • Curious George

    A farmer, like any business owner, wants to make money. They may very well be a nice and seemingly trustworthy person, but when it comes down to it, they are selling a product. Would you trust a salesperson just because they say their product is superior to the competition?
    Maybe instead of “know the farmer” it should be “know the farm.”

  • Tim Lukens

    Exactly correct, Curious George. There is no substitute for personal inspection of the farm itself, and it’s operating policies. Farming is a business first, and needs to be recognized as such, regardless of scale, by both the owner and the consumer. Being small can provide a closer connection with the consumer that has a “warm and fuzzy” feel and value, but it doesn’t negate the rules of economics, and liability. This goes back to an earlier discussion of whether or not a small scale family farm should be treated the same as a large scale operation. It should be, and in the event of an illness scale is not going to matter. My observation is that many of the small operations that are popping up are not correctly doing cost analysis, therefore they are not pricing products at a level that can provide for the reality of maintenance costs etc. The economic reality is that if you cannot maintain your facility correctly, pay your employees, taxation and yourself. Then you’re not charging enough for your products. If the market won’t bear the real cost of production then that farmer needs to quit and go find a job. The consumer needs to realize this also. It’s the same principle you would use to hire a contractor. The lowest bid is not always a wise decision if the bid doesn’t cover the reality of the job.

  • Bill Anderson

    I was not aware that Hartmann was a “raw milk poster boy.” You are making things up here, Bill.
    For a “Raw milk poster boy”, try Scott Trautman, Vernon Hershberger, or Mark McAfee. All produce stellar quality, very clean, nutrient-dense, organic pasture raised raw milk.
    Trautman and Hershberger, btw, have been a top targets of the Wisconsin dairy mafia, also known as DATCP (the Dept. of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection) even though they have made NO ONE sick ever.

  • Curious George

    Mark McAfee? Doesn’t that guy own Organic Pastures? I’m pretty sure old Bill has sued him. Try searching “Organic Pastures” you’ll see a bunch of stuff on that farm.

  • Marymary

    “My observation is that many of the small operations that are popping up are not correctly doing cost analysis, therefore they are not pricing products at a level that can provide for the reality of maintenance costs etc. The economic reality is that if you cannot maintain your facility correctly, pay your employees, taxation and yourself. Then you’re not charging enough for your products. If the market won’t bear the real cost of production then that farmer needs to quit and go find a job.”
    Amen, Mr. Lukens. What you wrote is also true of other small food operations. Many, perhaps most, do not do any cost analysis or safety analysis. They think they have the best barbecue, fried chicken, raw milk, sausage, pickles, etc. That’s all that matters to them. Many have inadequate policies and procedures for a host of sanitation and health issues. They buy old equipment and try to operate out of nearly delapidated facilities. They don’t understand that old world ways or what grandma did won’t work in the new world of emerging pathogens. They don’t understand the connection between employee health and foodborne illness. They don’t know or understand anything about cross contamination or using food-grade equipment and materials. Small operators think that the alleged quality of their food is all that matters.
    Unfortunately, too many consumers are ignorant of these issues and will defend a small operator against regulation in spite of reading horrifying inspection reports. In their minds, regulators are out to get their favorite farmers and restaurateurs. Any attempt at regulation is met with resistance and accusations that the regulatory agencies are in cahoots with industrial agriculture and/or chain restaurants to put small food operations out of business.