Michigan farmers and some of their downstate customers are still talking about an enforcement action taken two weeks ago by the Michigan Department of Agriculture. The incident has prompted hundreds of comments on local newspaper and Facebook pages.
A delivery truck from Standish, MI-based My Family Co-Op was making its run south on Interstate 75 to Macomb and Oakland counties with products also from High Hill Dairy when it was stopped by state agricultural inspectors. Once they discovered what was in the truck’s load, they seized it, requiring the driver to dump 250 gallons of raw milk and smash about 100 dozen organic eggs. All totaled, about $3,600 in raw and organic products were destroyed.
While this latest incident is coming in for attention, the state routinely conducts seizures. Last year, routine inspections led to 773 seizures of illegal food products.
Michigan cow-share agreements require customers to sign contacts stating they may “obtain” raw milk from the dairy — they don’t “buy” it. Deliveries are usually quick hand-offs in church parking lots.
My Family Co-op confirmed its deliveries were seized on July 15. A substitute driver allowed state agriculture inspectors to search the truck without demanding a warrant.
“They jumped on the truck, they whipped out their badges,” My Family’s owner said. “They said it was a licensing issue.”
State agriculture inspectors said the eggs were not clean, and butter, cream and buttermilk were not properly labeled and some were from a business that closed two years ago. The Michigan Department of Agriculture also wants the co-op to obtain a retail license.
Following the incident, some have charged that state inspectors are only targeting organic products.
Also, it appears the customers who were to get the deliveries already owned all the products destroyed. They were paying $9 per gallon for the raw milk.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that dairy investigators looked at outbreaks between 1998 and 2011 and found that 79 percent of them were due to raw milk or cheese. From 1998 through 2011, 148 outbreaks due to consumption of raw milk or raw milk products were reported to CDC. These resulted in 2,384 illnesses, 284 hospitalizations and two deaths.