WASHINGTON, Feb 15 - In a setback for the raw milk movement, a U.S. district judge in Pennsylvania has ruled that Amish farmer Daniel Allgyer and his Rainbow Acres Farm and Rainbow Valley Farms in Kinzers, Pa., violated two federal laws by selling raw milk.
Allgyer has been hailed as a hero by raw milk advocates for defying the Food and Drug Administration and portrayed as a victim for resisting its enforcement efforts. The Farmer to Consumer Legal Defense Fund has
FDA investigators found that Allgyer was packaging raw, unpasteurized milk in unlabeled containers and then distributed the milk for human consumption in interstate commerce, contrary to FDA regulations published in 1988 as a result of a court order.
FDA warned Allgyer that he was violating the law after FDA inspectors and federal marshals paid an early-morning visit to his farm April 20, 2010. Instead of cooperating, the Justice Department said in a statement, he tried to evade the federal regulation against the interstate sale of raw milk by creating a private membership organization that he used to enter into cow-sharing agreements with his customers. The court ruled that the cow-sharing agreements were “merely a subterfuge” and issued an order enjoining Allgyer and his associates from distributing unlabeled or unpasteurized milk for human consumption in interstate commerce.
While some states, including Pennsylvania, permit the sale of unpasteurized milk, it is illegal to transport unpasteurized milk across state lines. FDA says unpasteurized milk can contain harmful bacteria such as Listeria, E.coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Yersinia and Brucella.
“The FDA has determined that drinking raw milk can cause significant harm,” said Tony West, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “Working with our federal partners, we will bring enforcement actions like this one to ensure that the American food supply is safe and consumers are not exposed to such risks.”
The ruling is likely to be give ammunition to opponents of legislation pending in the New Jersey legislature to legalize the sale of raw milk. The industry’s New Jersey Food Council and the Northeast Dairy Foods Association have stepped up efforts to defeat the bill, which is supported by fervent supporters who believe raw milk to be healthier than pasteurized milk. The opponents also have warned legislators that some 65 illnesses from Campylobacter have been identified in four states, including New Jersey, from people who drank raw milk from a Pennsylvania dairy.