Minnesota Department of Agriculture investigators have seized more dairy products produced by farmer Mike Hartmann, according to a Minneapolis Star Tribune report.
On Tuesday, state agriculture investigators served Hartmann’s brother, Roger, with a search warrant and confiscated “hundreds of gallons of raw milk,” along with cream, yogurt, cheese and meat, the newspaper reported, citing Gary Wood, executive director of the Foundation for Consumer Free Choice, a raw milk advocacy group that has championed the Hartmanns.
Minnesota Public Radio reported that search warrant documents indicated state agriculture officials seized about 400 gallons of milk that Roger Hartmann had delivered to customers at a drop site in Minnetonka.
In the search warrant documents, according to MPR, state officials said they have reason to believe the Hartmanns are selling “an adulterated substance with the intent to cause death, bodily harm or illness … in light of their awareness of the many individuals struck by serious life-threatening illnesses after consuming unpasteurized milk produced under insanitary conditions.” In court last summer, the state said those conditions included rodent droppings and possible manure contamination.
Selling adulterated food could bring felony charges, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. But state officials declined to say whether they intend to file criminal charges, MPR reported.
In June, after eight E. coli O157:H7 illnesses were linked to the farm, the Minnesota Agriculture Department impounded its raw milk-based products and ordered the Hartmanns to stop selling unpasteurized milk until they corrected sanitary problems at their dairy in Gibbon.
On October 28, 2010, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture issued a news release disclosing that seven people with a recent history of consuming raw milk were sickened by Campylobacter and Cryptosporidium.
Several of the people reported exposure to Hartmann raw milk products, prompting Minnesota Department of Health Foodborne Diseases Unit Supervisor Dr. Kirk Smith to state, “We’re concerned that people are continuing to get sick after consuming products from this farm. We’re also concerned that some people who became ill were given the Hartmann dairy product by friends or neighbors who did not tell them the source.”
Minnesota health officials said testing on bacteria isolated from the cases in the October outbreak matched the genetic profile of the Campylobacter bacteria and Cryptosporidium parasite test results taken from samples at Hartmann farm over the summer, suggesting a persisting source of infection.
Mike Hartmann has maintained that his products have not made anyone ill and that the impound on his products applied only to the inventory found on the farm in May and June. The state argued in court that the no-sales order remains in force; the judge in the case has not issued a ruling.
The sale of raw milk — which is milk that hasn’t been pasteurized to kill harmful pathogens — is legal in Minnesota so long as it is limited to the farm where it is produced. Hartmann has claimed the state has no regulatory authority over him because he sells directly to consumers.© Food Safety News