Saying he was going to cut Michael Hartmann some slack, a judge declined to hold the Minnesota dairy farmer in contempt of court for eating food the state of Minnesota had impounded.

At a hearing Thursday, Hartmann said his family had consumed the milk, butter, cheese and other food the court had ruled should be destroyed.

Although the state had asked District Court Judge Rex Stacey to find Hartmann in contempt for ignoring that court order, the judge said, “I’m going to give you a break here” and also declined to assess a monetary penalty.

Last June, after at least eight E. coli O157:H7 infections were linked to the Hartmann farm, the Minnesota Agriculture Department impounded its raw milk-based products and ordered the farmer to stop selling unpasteurized milk until he corrected numerous sanitation problems at his dairy. 

But Hartmann insisted his milk did not make anyone sick, claimed the state had no regulatory authority over his right to sell milk and defiantly continued to deliver his products to customers around the state.

In a ruling handed down in December, Judge Stacey found that Hartmann’s milk was indeed responsible for the E. coli outbreak and also said he must abide by Minnesota state dairy standards and regulations, which include limiting raw milk sales to the farm where the milk is produced.