A Missouri dairy owner is on notice from the FDA for selling unpasteurized, raw camel milk in interstate commerce, with the agency discounting the dairyman’s contention that camel milk is not covered by federal law.

This farm in Lancaster county, PA, is one of a handful of camel milking operations in the United States. Photo by Dreamstime
This farm in Lancaster county, PA, is one of a handful of camel milking operations in the United States. Photo by Dreamstime

The Food and Drug Administration’s Kansas City district office sent a warning letter to Samuel P. Hostetler, owner of Hump-Back Dairys in Miller, MO, on Dec. 19 related to an inspection at his farm from July 27-29. The federal inspectors found records showing the dairy had distributed unpasteurized, raw camel milk and raw camel milk products across state lines, which is a violation of federal law.

“Such distribution is a violation of  the Public Health Service Act,” according to the warning letter. “…We have reviewed the correspondence letter dated Sept. 19, 2016, from Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund. The letter, which states that it is written on your behalf, raises questions about whether the regulation in 21 CFR 1240.61(a) applies to products such as yours that are made from the lacteal secretions of camels.

“Under 21 CFR 1240.3(j), the term ‘milk product’ is defined as ‘food products made exclusively or principally from the lacteal secretion obtained from one or more healthy milk-producing animals, e.g., cows, goats, sheep, and water buffalo.’ … Although the definition refers to the examples of cows, goats, sheep, and water buffalo, that list is not exhaustive. The definition thus includes the commercial lacteal secretions from other animals as well, including camels.”

Hostetler is knowingly selling the raw milk in violation of federal law, according to the warning letter, which quoted from labels on the unpasteurized raw milk from the Miller, MO, dairy — “Ingredients: Whole Raw Camel Milk” and “Ingredients: Cultured Whole Raw Camel Milk.”

“You affirmed that products labeled or identified as raw camel milk in your records are not heat treated or pasteurized. Further, the products that you shipped were in final package form and were for direct human consumption,” according to the warning letter.

The FDA letter gave Hostetler the standard 15 days to respond to the agency.

Missouri state law allows for the in-state sale of unpasteurized, raw milk only when the sale is directly from a producer to an individual for that individual’s own use. The Missouri Attorney General Office has interpreted the point of origin of the sale of raw milk is the producer’s farm and that dairy farmers cannot sell raw milk from off-site distribution centers.

Both FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as state and local health officials across the country, warn against drinking unpasteurized, raw milk because of the dangers of pathogens such as E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes.

Pasteurization, which involves heating milk to a temperature high enough to kill bacteria for a few seconds, became routine in the U.S. dairy industry in the 1920s and is credited with preventing countless illnesses.

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