The organic egg farmer who picked up raw milk for delivery to his customers in Minnesota’s Twin Cities has been acquitted by a big city jury of violating the state’s ban on commercial sale of unpasteurized dairy products.
Each count could have sent the organic farmer to jail for up to one year and cost him a fine of up to $1,000. He was offered the opportunity to plead guilty to just one charge in exchange for having the other two dismissed.
Schlangen rejected the deal and instead went for total victory with the jury verdict.
Nathan Hansen, the farmer’s attorney, apparently persuaded the jury that his client was not involved in a business venture, but a private food club. Called the Freedom Farms Co-op, the club had 130 members who could pick from various farm products signed up.
Schlangen was depicted as doing nothing more than being a volunteer who picked up raw milk from an Amish dairy and delivering it–along with other products including his organic eggs–to club members in the Twin Cities area.
While there was an outbreak of foodborne illness involving raw milk in Minnesota about the time Schlangen was charged back in 2010, Hansen said no one got sick from the raw milk from the Amish dairy.
Charged with selling raw milk, operating without a food license, and handling adulterated or misbranded food, Schlangen demanded his case be heard by a jury. The trial began Monday and the jury started deliberations late on Wednesday.
Michelle Doffing-Baynes, an assistant city attorney for Minneapolis, tried to convince the jury that food safety laws exist to protect the public health. This Minnesota jury, however, was not buying that argument.
Schlangen’s family and friends celebrated the victory in the courtroom.
He is not out of the woods yet, however. The Freeport egg man also faces six more misdemeanor charges at home in Stearns County stemming from the June 2010 inspection of his farm.© Food Safety News