Raw milk is public enemy number one as far as the USDA is concerned. Alvin Schlangen is once again facing legal woes simply because he offers healthy and aspartame-free unpasteurized milk to members of his Minnesota food club.
Less than a year ago, Alvin Schlangen was acquitted of three raw milk “crimes” in the Hennepin County, Minnesota courthouse. The dairy farmer and food club operator was charged with a trio of misdemeanor crimes relating to the distribution of raw dairy products. Schlangen was also charged with violations in connection to retailer and food handling licensing statutes.
Despite beating the unpasteurized milk charges in a court of law, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture is still doggedly pursuing the dairy farmer. Many raw milk advocates believe the state branch of the USDA is going after Alvin Schlangen even more aggressively than during the first legal battle. The agricultural agency reportedly convinced the prosecuting attorney in the dairy farmer’s home county to file the same set of misdemeanor charges which were levied against him in Hennepin County—along with a few more. The Stearns County charges also include violations for storing eggs under improper conditions and selling altered food.
Stearns County prosecuting attorney Bill MacPhail has gone so far as to compare raw milk to a controlled substance during his pretrial statements. The county official also insinuated that a participant in Alvin Schlangen’s food club became ill after consuming raw dairy products which contained the pathogen campylobacter. Such an incident could be used as proof that the Minnesota dairy farmer was not properly storing his unpasteurized milk if tests to prove the presence of the pathogen had been conducted. However, they were not. The food club member reportedly admitted to having consumed fast food in the days prior to becoming ill. The eating habits admission has not diminished the prosecuting attorney’s vigor in his quest to convict Schlangen.
The second attempt to put the raw milk producer behind bars comes on the heels of the Vernon Hershberger acquittal in nearby Wisconsin. As previously reported by Off The Grid News, Hershberger battled agriculture and legal officials over similar raw dairy issues.
The six raw milk related misdemeanors Alvin Schlangen must now fight also include claims that he sold custom-slaughtered chicken and beef, and removed embargoed food. The Minnesota farmer’s attorney Nathan Hansen wants the three charges which are identical ones Schlangen beat in a neighboring county dropped due to double jeopardy protections.
Stearns County attorney Bill MacPhail had this to say about the new charges levied against the Minnesota farmer:
“The concern here is, whether it’s eggs or milk or whatever kind of food, is that Minnesota law requires everybody, including Alvin, to properly refrigerate it.”
A Minnesota court already ruled on the bulk of the charges against Schlangen in 2012 and acquitted the man. County prosecutors in a different county should not get a second bite at the apple. How individuals want to store milk, cheese, produce, or meat that they grow or raise themselves, or share with others through a private food club, is not the government’s business.
During the September 2012 trial, Schlangen’s attorney successfully argued that his client was delivering raw milk from a farm to food club members. The farmer also stated that he was distributing eggs which were laid on his own farm and distributing other natural foods as part of his position as the volunteer food club manager. If he had been convicted of the crimes, he faced a $6,000 fine and up to 18 months in jail.
Attorney Nathan Hansen had this to say about the new crimes Alvin Schlangen has been charged with over raw dairy distribution practices:
“We have a bureaucracy that’s intent for whatever reason on making sure people aren’t able to get raw milk.”
Minnesota Department of Agriculture representative Michael Schommer opted not to comment on Schlangen’s case specifically when questions were posed by local media outlet. The agriculture department spokesmen did say, “We cannot arbitrarily choose certain business models or product categories to be exempt from basic food safety and sanitary requirements.”
Since the raw milk and other food club products were not part of a commercial enterprise, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture had no business infringing upon the group’s activities.
The raw milk victories and mounting vocal support for real milk have fostered greater acceptance of food clubs around the country. State laws are finally beginning to reflect the wholesome nature of unpasteurized milk. A recent Wall Street Journal report indicated that recent raw dairy studies have validated the safety of raw milk.
Researcher Madine Ijaz, MSc, stated that “inappropriate evidence” has been used to support the myth that raw milk remains the same high-risk food product that is was during the 1930s. As the study noted, green leafy vegetables are now the primary cause of food-borne illness in America. Canadian environmental health services official Dr. Tom Kosatsky deemed Ijaz’s findings as an “up to date” and quality example of the “knowledge synthesis and risk communication.”
Data and research reviewed by fellow scientists also noted that there has been a 40-year worldwide absence of raw milk listeria cases in relation to raw milk. European researchers reportedly believe the lack of listeriosis cases are due to the protective nature of non-harmful raw milk bacteria.
Ijaz had this to say about the raw milk safety:
“While it is clear that there remains some appreciable risk of food-borne illness from raw milk consumption, public health bodies should now update their policies and informational materials to reflect the most high-quality evidence, which characterizes this risk as low. Raw milk producers should continue to use rigorous management practices to minimize any possible remaining risk.”
Farm Match is one of the sponsors of an upcoming Campaign for Real Milk event in Chicago on August 7. Participants at the event will have the opportunity to sample raw milk and other natural foods. The Farm Match organization was created by Wisconsin resident Max Kane. He reportedly drank raw milk to help heal his body after becoming afflicted with Crohn’s disease. The Great Chicago Area Whole Food Nutrition Meetup Group is also helping host the unpasteurized milk event.
Grassroots food sovereignty groups have been pushing the raw milk issue to the forefront, aiding in the success of raw dairy law changes across the nation. A Campaign for Real Milk was founded in 1999 and seeks to ensure universal access to natural raw milk from pasture-fed cows. The organization works in a partnership with the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund to alter the political climate so raw milk sales can be legalized in every state.