The word customers were waiting for first went up on Facebook. “Milk is Available!” announced Black Hills Milk.
The raw milk began flowing yesterday in Spearfish, South Dakota and will become available today at the Farmers Market in Rapid City.
The South Dakota Department of Agriculture last week ordered Black Hills Milk to stop selling raw milk after Campylobacter bacteria was found in a test sample.
While the company complied with the state’s order, the action did create a controversy among state agricultural officials, Black Hills Milk and its customers. On Monday, however, the company was focused on getting back into business after being told by state officials that additional testing for the pathogen had come up negative.
“You will notice that your milk bottles look a little different from now on,” the Black Hills Milk announcement to customers said. “We are leaving a little space in the top of each bottle. This gap will allow for a flow of oxygen inside the bottle.”
“Campylobacter can not survive in such an environment and therefore is just another safety precaution, so we can be assured that this does not happen again,” it continued. “The quality of our milk is of the highest priority to us!”
After being ordered to stop sales, Black Hills Milk co-owner Dawn Habek went public with the charge that if the state was really concerned about safety, it would have acted sooner. She said the positive test was on a sample of milk that was taken Sept. 25 and it took about three weeks before the Campylobacter problem was announced.
Food Safety News was unable to reach South Dakota Dairy Program Administrator Darwin Kurtenbach Monday about the delay in reporting testing results. Kurtenbach earlier told the Black Hills Pioneer that the state waited for a second positive test to come back before ordering the dairy to stop selling milk.
Even after being told it could resume sales, Black Hills Milk’s statement to its customers said the health department was not telling the company the full story.
“We still have not been able to determine what strain of campylobactor that tested positive earlier, the state seems hesitant to give this information to us,” read the press release.
Black Hills Milk was ordered to immediately discontinue sales on Oct. 16. One reason for the delay may have been that South Dakota test samples are sent to DQCI Laboratory, a private lab in Mounds View, MN. The lab returns results to state officials in 48 to 96 hours.
Habek has not contested any of the lab’s findings, but has stirred up raw milk advocates with some of her comments. Referring to state agricultural officials, she said: “We’ve been fighting this battle with these guys for a long time.”
Several Black Hills Milk customers have come to the dairy’s defense on its Facebook page. “Mr. Kurtenbach also neglected to mention that pasteurization kills the beneficial flora and that homogenization destroys the vitamin A and vitamin D, which the government then requires be replaced,” wrote a nurse who is apparently also a customer. “The vitamin A and vitamin D added after pasteurization aren’t even absorbed by your body.”
Black Hills Milk is sold at retail outlets in Spearfish, at the Black Hills Farmers Market at Founder’s Park in Rapid City and at other locations in the the Black Hills, located in western South Dakota.
South Dakota requires producers of raw milk be permitted through the state, inspected once or twice a year, and, depending on the grade of milk, provide a monthly quality analysis.
Friends of Raw Milk, a support group for both Black Hills Milk LLC and Black Hills Goat Dairy, is meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Daily Grind in Rapid City. A possible agenda item, according to a Facebook post, is petitioning for a new state dairy administrator.© Food Safety News