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Raw milk dairy linked to Listeria cases must submit to USDA inspection

After three hours of testimony Tuesday, a federal judge ruled Amos Miller and Miller’s Organic Farm, located at 648 Millcreek School Road in Bird-in-Hand, PA, must submit to inspection by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The order was handed down from the bench by  Judge Edward G. Smith in the U.S. District Court for Eastern Pennsylvania in Allentown.

raw milk for sale signMiller’s Organic Farm, according to a March 18 report by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is linked to listeriosis illnesses of individuals in California and Florida, one of whom died after being hospitalized for a Listeria monocytogenes infection.

“The FDA and CDC then investigated those incidents. In interviews with family members, the investigators learned that both individuals drank raw milk before getting sick, and that the Florida individual’s family purchased raw milk from Miller’s Organic Farm,” USDA says in its complaint about the inspection issue.

The FDA collected Listeria bacteria from the two infected individuals and, in November 2015, obtained samples of raw chocolate milk from Miller’s Organic Farm. The samples were purchased at a raw milk conference in California. Those raw milk samples contained Listeria bacteria matching that collected from the victims, according to the CDC.

The USDA is asking the court for an order to allow it’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to  review and assess Miller’s Organic Farm’s compliance with the Meat Act and the Poultry Act.

Millers-Organic-Farm-2010-tour-raw-milk-storage

A storage area at Miller’s raw dairy operation is shown in this 2010 file photo.

About 20 raw milk advocates were present for the oral arguments and to give Miller, serving as his own attorney, support.

Miller filed a 10-page, pre-hearing brief, responding to the government’s complaint. He attached 45 pages of statements and articles attesting to the safety of raw milk in general.

His own declaration is included in the brief. He reports the FDA executed a warrant issued by a federal judge in 2011 and conducted an inspection of Miller’s Organic Farm. “Nothing came of that inspection,” he said.

“I heard nothing from the federal government until this year,” Miller says in his statement. He says he was surprised to hear about the Florida and California Listeria cases because there had been no complaints from his 2,000 members served by the “private membership association” affiliated with his dairy.

Miller says he and his members “believe in individual freedom and self-regulation.”

“We don’t need big brother looking over our shoulder to do what is right,” he contends.  “We can handle that on our own.”

The government reports that FSIS personnel unsuccessfully sought access to Miller’s Organic Farm, including its facilities and business records, from March 22 through May this year. Each time, Miller said without a warrant or court order, he’d continue to deny their access. He did not honor a subpoena issued by the FSIS Administrator.

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