A 16-page federal court order smashes the business model used by Amish farmer Amos Miller and Miller’s Organic Farm at Bird-in-Hand, PA. He can no longer sell unsafe food to consumers throughout the nation.
The order shuts Miller down by prohibiting him from selling non-federally-inspected and misbranded meat and poultry products. Under the guise of a private food club, Miller’s Organic Farm has filled orders nationwide for “off the farm nutrient-dense foods.”
Signed by Federal Judge Edward G.Smith, the order will require Miller to submit to inspections by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) if Miller’s Organic Farm is going to remain viable as a business entity.
Miller’s Organic Farm was still offering spare ribs and beet broth along with raw milk and cheese, and eggs to its members. Whether any sales are being conducted is not known.
The Department of Justice filed for a civil injunction against Miller on behalf of FSIS in April. It said Miller was violating numerous federal food safety laws.
Federal food safety officials have focused on Miller’s enterprises since 2015 when his raw, unpasteurized milk was linked to a multi-state outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes that resulted in one death.
But when FSIS went to investigate to determine if the Listeria might be contaminating the meat and poultry at Miller’s Organic Farm, Miller would not let them enter the premises. He continued to deny FSIS entry even when they returned with court-ordered subpoenas.
Miller claimed his private membership association, or PMA, is exempt from federal regulation, which is not what the federal code states.
“The civil injunction requires Miller’s to cease commercial sales of non-federally-inspected, misbranded, nonexempt meat and poultry products,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s office for Eastern Pennsylvania.
The new court order also requires that Miller maintain relevant business transaction records, cooperate with FSIS personnel regarding inspections and oversite. He must also comply with all food safety laws.
Miller will face steep financial sanctions if he violates the injunction.
“As I stated when my office filed this suit and as the injunction shows, food establishments in this district must follow federal food safety laws that protect the public,” said U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain.
FSIS Administrator Carmen Rottenberg also commented on the case. “Inspection is the cornerstone of our food safety regulatory system — enabling consumers to purchase and prepare meat and poultry with confidence in the safety of these products,” she said.
In the past Miller has objected to the cost of regulatory compliance. Since June his supporters have been promoting a GoFundMe campaign. They’ve raised about$12,000 for the farmer. The fund-raising campaign is also connected to a survey that finds the most support for Miller’s Organic Farm continuing with its own on-site slaughter.
Miller told local media that he’ll seek a custom exemption from federal inspection and continue his business. He says federal inspection would cost $50,000 to $100,000, and would likely put him out of business,
“If Amos Miller and Miller’s Organic Farm obtain such approval of a custom-exempt plan,” the order says, “this Court, as provided in Paragraph 29 below, will retain jurisdiction to review defendants’ compliance with the Act. Any custom-exempt plan must demonstrate, and defendants must ensure, that Miller’s customer-exempt slaughter and processing operations comply with the Acts and their implementing requirements.”
Custom exempt status comes with numerous regulatory responsibilities including requirements for sanitary practices and humane slaughter. Miller and his farm operation will also have to comply with proper labeling requirements and the state of Pennsylvania’s food codes and licensing.
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