The Minnesota Department of Agriculture impounded unpasteurized milk and uninspected meat earlier this month from a man who regulators allege was illegally selling the products from a van parked alongside a city street in St. Paul.
Alvin Schlangen of Freeport told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune he is an agent for a private “food freedom” club, and said he was doing nothing wrong.
“Our [Minnesota Department of Agriculture] does not recognize our right of access to the foods of our choice,” the newspaper said he stated in an email sent Monday. “It is time for [Minnesota] consumers to stand up for their rights and stop settling for nutrient deficient, subsidized commodity food.”
Minnesota allows on-farm sales of raw milk directly to customers, and meat raised for a farmer’s personal consumption need not be inspected. But livestock and poultry sold to the public must be inspected before slaughter and Minnesota state law does not permit the retail sale of milk that has not first been pasteurized to kill dangerous pathogens.
The Pioneer Press reported that the state has repeatedly told Schlanger to stop selling food without the required licenses, permits and labels.
Although state officials told the newspaper they could not discuss details of their investigation, the agriculture department’s dairy program manager explained that the state must enforce the law, and has an interest in halting unsafe practices that could spread disease.
While raw milk advocates and others who profit from unlicensed food sales frame the issue as a matter of personal freedom and choice, regulators see the issue as one of basic consumer safety and protecting the public health.
Last year in Minnesota, a court rejected a different milk seller’s contention that he was not bound by state laws regarding raw milk and uninspected meat.
In that case, the court also found that unpasteurized milk from Michael Hartmann’s farm was responsible for an outbreak of potentially lethal E. coli O157:H7 that sickened eight people.
Hartmann had been operating for years without a Grade A dairy license, which was revoked by the state in 2001. When Minnesota health investigators identified the Hartmann dairy as the likely source of the E. coli outbreak, inspectors from the state agriculture department found numerous sanitation problems at the farm, including “the extreme buildup of manure on virtually every surface in the dairy barn,” according to evidence presented to the court.
They said they found the milk house ceiling to be water damaged and crumbling, thick layers of cobwebs and dust, dead flies and live flies in abundance, dead animals, rodent droppings, chickens in the milking parlor, rusty and corroded equipment, and milking equipment stored in a sink.
In October, the Minnesota Department of Health identified 47 people, in addition to the eight associated with the Hartmann farm, who since Jan. 1, 2010 had become ill after drinking raw milk from a variety of sellers in the state.