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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Michael Hartmann, “Raw Milk Poster Boy,” linked to E. coli, Campylobacter and Cryptosporidium Illnesses, now faces contempt of court

The Star Tribune reported yesterday that the “state says condemned raw milk is missing from Gibbon farm,” and is now seeking an order of contempt. For those who recall, raw milk produced by Hartmann was blamed for causing eight cases of E. coli O157:H7 in May, and seven instances in July and August of Campylobacter and Cryptosporidium.

Last month, Minnesota state district Judge Rex Stacey rejected Hartmann’s claim that his farm wasn’t culpable for the E. coli outbreak. Stacey ordered the Agriculture Department to destroy the seized products, including 100 cases of raw milk, 20 cases of skim milk, 125 tubs of yogurt and 900 packages and four large boxes of raw-milk-derived cheddar cheese. On Jan. 3, when the state went to destroy the embargoed food, only five half-gallons of embargoed milk remained and the yogurt inventory had been whittled down to four or five containers, according to the affidavit. All embargoed meat products were gone, too.

So, where is the raw milk, etc? Reminds me of that 1980’s commercial:

For the pros and cons of Raw Milk, see www.realrawmilkfacts.com.

  • John Munsell

    I must preface my remarks by stating I am a conservative, firmly believing that government should be as small as possible, yet actively involved with “adequate” oversight as required to protect the public.
    Having said this, my perception of appropriate government surveillance/oversight of the food industry has indeed morphed, not only because of our ongoing outbreaks and recurring recalls, but primarily because I have personally witnessed how USDA/FSIS has intentionally insulated the large source slaughter plants from accountability for pathogen-laden products emanating from these large plants.
    The unexplained disappearance of unsafe milk as explained in this story again reveals the need for adequate FDA oversight over the milk industry. The same can be said for peanut butter, lettuce, raw cookie dough, etc, as well as for USDA/FSIS oversight of meat, poultry and eggs. Ten years ago, I would’ve thought I’d never make this admission.
    However, a mere legislative mandate to FDA and USDA/FSIS to provide oversight is grossly inadequate in and of itself. If FDA’s eventual policies mirror those of FSIS, FDA will intentionally send all blame for pathogens downstream to the DESTINATION facilities which innocently purchase previously contaminated food. FSIS has historically revelled in its ability to shift all liability away from the SOURCE, and to place an almost exclusive blame on the destination facilities. On Marcy 19 last year, FSIS sent a letter to 9 meat industry associations, explaining how the agency expects these downstream establishments to, in essence, validate the safety of incoming meat purchased from their source slaughter providers. Mission Impossible. And, misplaced blame, by intentional FSIS design! To the credit of the current USDA Under Sec for meat inspection Dr. Elisabeth Hagen, and FSIS Administrator Al Almanza, the agency suddenly desires to focus on Prevention at the Source. What a novel idea! For FSIS, this is not only novel, but constitutes a radical watershed change in agency thinking. Only time will tell if these two brave individuals can successfully force this idea through an agency top heavy with lifer bureaucrats who have previously resisted Prevention at the Source.
    Since the recently-passed Food Safety Bill S. 510 mandates food manufacturers to implement a food safety system largely the same as USDA-style HACCP, including a Hazard Analysis, CCP’s and a WRITTEN food safety plan, we can be assured that FDA will be tempted to likewise adopt a watered down, deregulated system of non-inspection which will likewise insulate the SOURCE from liability merely because the large producers can fabricate a written action plan worthy of a Pulitzer prize…………..in Science Fiction.
    So, back to my initial point: FDA (as well as FSIS) must provide adequate oversight, which requires bold leaders such as Dr. Hagen and Mr. Almanza who are willing to confront the largest producers eyeball-to-eyeball, with no concern for litigation threats from the largest players. Will FDA leaders be willing to Force the Source? Only time will tell. A primary threat we face here is that America will now sit on its haunches, believing that the mere passage of S. 510 will guarantee any improvement whatsoever.
    John Munsell

  • Doc Mudd

    I’ve long understood Micheal Pollan is the Ronald McDonald of ‘Slow food”, but now I wonder if Michael Hartmann isn’t giviing Pollan a serious run for his money.
    As Forest Gump so apltly philosophized: “Stupid is as stupid does”!
    Stupid drama queens. All of ’em.