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Missouri Dairy Defies Order on Raw Milk Cheese

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster has sought a court order to force the destruction of raw milk cheese at a farm in the Ozarks, but the owners of the Morningland Dairy dispute whether their cheese is contaminated.

The cheese standoff  began in June, following a raid in California of Rawesome Foods.  With guns drawn, federal, state and local authorities entered the Venice raw food club and seized cartons of raw milk and packages of unpasteurized goat cheese.

A Los Angeles Times report treated the action as somewhat of a laughing matter, with quotes such as “I still can’t believe they took away our yogurt.”  Comedy Central’s Colbert Report satirically re-enacted the raid.

But the California Department of Food and Agriculture notified Missouri officials that Morningland cheese confiscated in the raid contained traces of Listeria Monocytogenes and Staphylococcus Aureus.

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In late August Morningland voluntarily recalled cheese that had been made between Jan. 1 and Aug. 26.  The dairy sells several types of raw milk cheeses in 48 states–in retail stores, by mail order, direct delivery and through crop-sharing associations.

One of the retailers caught up in the recall was Whole Foods, which stopped selling raw milk in bulk last March but had continued to offer cheese containing unpasteurized milk.  It announced a recall of Morningland Dairy and Ozark Hills Farm Raw Goat Milk Mild Cheddar Cheese.

After the recall, 14 samples of Morningland Dairy’s cheese were sent to a St. Louis laboratory to be tested.  Koster and Missouri’s State Milk Board have said all 14 samples tested positive for Staphylococcus Aureus and 6 of the samples tested positive for Listeria Monocytogenes.

Morningland, however, is critical of the way those samples were collected and handled.

On Oct. 1, Missouri’s State Milk Board condemned all the company’s cheese products manufactured between Jan. 1 and Aug. 26 and ordered them destroyed.

On the company’s website, Morningland Dairy owners Joseph and Denise Dixon reported receiving a letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in mid-October.  The letter states that the dairy’s cheese poses “an acute, life-threatening hazard to health.”

The Dixons have protested the characterization, noting that in 30 years of cheese-making, no illnesses have been associated with their product.  They said the order to destroy eight months of work, which they estimate involves about 50,000 pounds of cheese worth approximately $250,000, is “untenable.”

They have suggested alternative remedies, including additional testing.

Both sides in Missouri say they are acting on behalf of consumers.

On their website, the dairy owners say “the battle is not just about cheese.”  They thank supporters “who are standing with us in the endeavor to defend our right to choose the food that we believe is good for us.”

Koster, a former Republican state senator who ran for Attorney General as a Democrat, said that by asking the court to issue an injunction against the dairy, he was trying to protect the safety of Missouri consumers.  “Because this company refuses to destroy the contaminated product,” he wrote, “we are asking the court to order them to do so.”

© Food Safety News
  • aed939

    If the cost of additional testing is much less than the value of the product, of course it should be tested to mitigate the losses.

  • Carlo Silvestri

    I believe that the state’s job is to protect people but we also have a right to choose. If it is clearly marked and understood by consumers that there is a potential danger in the purchasing and consumption of a given item eg. raw milk products, and the consumer understands this danger and still chooses to purchase and consume the item(s), I believe that the consumer should have the right to. If the consumer ends up getting sick, at that point it’s his fault. However, the problematic item should be clearly marked as problematic and the decision at that point left to the consumer.

  • Doc Mudd

    “The Dixons have protested the characterization, noting that in 30 years of cheese-making, no illnesses have been associated with their product. They said the order to destroy eight months of work, which they estimate involves about 50,000 pounds of cheese worth approximately $250,000, is ‘untenable.'”
    I don’t know about ‘untenable’ (indeed, that much product could easily be destroyed), but that would certainly deprive the Dixons of finally, after 30 years, sickening their first customer…with listeriosis. If you’re lookin’ to infect someone and get noticed, listeria is as trendy and serious a pathogen as any, I suppose.

  • Paula Hall

    http://uncheeseparty.wordpress.com/
    We’re dealing with an illegal search and seizure along with no due process. Morningside’s cheese has never made anyone sick in all the 30 years of business. Who’s the criminals then?
    Click on the above hyperlink to donate to Morningside and keep their honest way of life a reality in America.

  • I believe the Attorney General’s office has the authority to do this, Paula.

  • crs

    Problem with consumer choice is that most food poisoning bugs are transmissible. So if X eats raw milk cheese and contracts a STEC, if he doesn’t use really good hand hygiene in a public restroom (and, let’s be honest…) he can infect Y and Z, even though Y and Z have too much sense to eat raw milk cheese. X’s choice puts Y and Z at risk. Also, the Dixons allege they’ve never sickened anyone. How could they possibly know? For example a listeria infection can take weeks to produce symptoms. Most people suspect food poisoning from the last food they ate, not the piece of cheese they had maybe three to ten days ago. The Dixons could very well have sickened consumers in the past without being aware of the fact.

  • Caws

    So let’s make sure we only drink milk & eat cheese from the industrial farms laced with fluoroquinolone antibiotics, genetically engineered hormones, detergent residues, and pus exceeding govt regulations. Ultra pasturized to assure that there are no enzymes or nutrients left to sustain life. Put parturized product out beside raw and see which spoils faster…

  • curtis

    WE HAVE BEEN DRINKING RAW MILK,AND EATING CHEESE FOREVER!I KNOW I GREW UP ON RAW MILK!I AM HEALTHY AND WILL ALWAYS INTAKE RAW MILK/CHEESE FOR AS LONG AS I AM LIVIN. MISSOURI NEEDS TO GET ONTO SOMETHING MORE IMPORANT THINGS THAN TO MESS AROUND WITH THIS.WHAT ABOUT FREEDOM OF CHOICE????? THIS IS SO INMATURE, AND I ALWAYS SAY MISSOURI GOV.IS SO WORRIED ABOUT THE SMALL THINGS THAT THE BIG PROBLEMS SLIP RIGHT AWAY!!!!!!

  • Pasteurization and homogenization are very new processes in the evolution of humans and their relationship with dairy. “Raw” dairy products have been consumed for thousands of years, and only recently have we seen such a wide-spread allergic reaction to dairy (things like asthma, inflammation, loss in bone density, and cancer have all been linked to consuming PASTEURIZED dairy products).
    Companies like Morningland Dairy are providing the public with a valuable food in the wholesome way it’s been shared for thousands of years. It’s valuable in the sense that it continues to provide us with options, and it also provides a whole food to families that has not been denatured in any way.

  • I can buy cigarettes, I can buy alcohol, can get lung cancer, I can cause someone else to get lung cancer, I can drive drunk, I can kill someone by driving drunk. I can get addicted to pain killers, I can die from my asthma medication but… I can’t buy raw milk or raw cheese? How is it possible that anyone can think this is for the “safety” of humanity?! There is a clear agenda and it requires people to get off their sterilized soap boxes and stand together in defense of our food. HOW MANY PEOPLE DO YOU KNOW DIE from taking their prescription medications as prescribed? HOW MANY PEOPLE DO YOU KNOW DIE from eating raw cheese? BIG corporate suit wearing farmers have the blood of the little man on their hands and the ignorance of people allows the takeovers and shutdowns of the local farms to continue. WAKE UP!

  • Lenore

    I had been eating cheese from Morningland for years…and enjoyed every bite.
    When living in CA and the milk industry tried to stop Alta Dena from selling raw milk (which was delivered to my door), they had labels made…’petfood..not for human consumption’ and continued selling their products until they won their case.
    Could Morningland do something of the same nature?? I’d certainly buy some.

  • L G

    Michael, wait until the attorney general authorizes a raid on your home. I bet you change your tune.