Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

MDA Uncovers and Disarms Clandestine Healthy Food Distribution Cell

19. October 2006 • Scott TenBrink, Guest Contributor
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While gubanatorial candidates point fingers over safety in the state, the Michigan Department of Agriculture is taking action! State troopers have seized the dairy products being delivered to co-op members as part of a sting investigating the selling of unpasteurized milk. According to the AANews,

[T]he investigation was touched off last April when a Washtenaw County woman’s three children became sick. She told her doctor she thought they’d become sick from pasteurized milk, but added that she also bought raw milk from the co-op.

That doctor followed up with the county health department, which passed the information on to the MDA, Kennedy said. The MDA began a sting operation. An agent joined the co-op and bought raw milk from Hebron from May through October. The milk was tested, and found to be fine, Kennedy said.

While the four months of testing on these illicit bovine secretions have identified no Milk of Mass Destuction, The MDA is quick to point out that this is a safety issue. The investigation has yet to address the fact that as partial owners of the producing animals, the co-op members may legally receive the dairy goods.



  1. Bacteria will f—- you up. I hear that stuff is everywhere. Besides, if you’re bringing milk in from Israel (oops, Palestine!) it’s bound to get funky en route.


       —Patrick Austin    Oct. 19 '06 - 01:15PM    #
  2. Fortunately, there are opportunities to protest the incumbent food regime this November – look, local organic free range turkeys!

    I just heard yesterday about an all-pastured / no hormone beef farm north of here looking for new customers, as well; I’ll have to dig up that info.


       —Murph.    Oct. 19 '06 - 04:41PM    #
  3. Hey Murph, can I raise free-range chickens in Ypsi yet? I’m thinking of moving back, but that’d be the deal-breaker.


       —Brandon    Oct. 20 '06 - 12:57AM    #
  4. Sorry, Brandon, no free-range chickens are allowed in AA. As to Ypsi – who knows?


       —David Cahill    Oct. 20 '06 - 12:39PM    #
  5. wow, great governemnt at work!

    Don’t they have better things to do, like deal with real crime?


       —just a voice    Oct. 20 '06 - 04:14PM    #
  6. Read “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan – an eye-opener!


       —Leah    Oct. 20 '06 - 08:20PM    #
  7. Two new articles in the AANews explain that the unwitting informant regrets her honesty with health officials while co-opers continue with their plot to consume unprocessed dairy overlooked by the MDA who are focusing on the role of Morgan & York in possible commercial distribution. Morgan and York seem to take the position that since they don’t make a dime off of the product distribution, there isn’t much ground to the claim.

    The MDA is working with Federal investigators to combat a interstate ring of dairy terror who promote the godless act of drinking unpasteurized milk.

    Meanwhile, the co-opers are turning lemons into a lemonade stand that lobbies for a change in the ridiculous state law that requires these work-arounds in the first place.

    I wish them best of luck.


       —Scott TenBrink    Oct. 29 '06 - 07:31AM    #
  8. “The MDA is working with Federal investigators to combat a interstate ring of dairy terror who promote the godless act of drinking unpasteurized milk.”

    That’s not at all fair; the regulations requiring pasteurizations aren’t based on superstition. See, e.g., this story of a bovine TB outbreak which is believed to have originated from a man who drank unpasteurized milk.

    My understanding is that this kind of thing is extremely rare, and not normally dangerous. But that’s at least partly due to the tremendous advances we’ve made in public health in the last century. Let’s not ignore to the point of ignoring legimate public health concerns, even while admitting that we may need more flexible regulation and enforcement.


       —Bruce Fields    Oct. 29 '06 - 05:09PM    #
  9. “Let’s not ignore to the point of ignoring legimate public health concerns…”

    Apparently I’ve totally lost the ability to proofread. Apologies. I assume people will figure out what I meant to say….


       —Bruce Fields    Oct. 29 '06 - 05:54PM    #
  10. Let’s not ignore to the point of ignoring legimate public health concerns,

    What, like industrial farming practices that increase dangers ranging from food tainted with e. coli, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, and the general case of drug resistant bacteria to manure runoff into waterways and higher levels of fat in general and saturated fat in particular? Not to mention the incredible difficulty of tracking tainted/problematic food in an industrial international commodity food distribution system.

    Yes, I’d say there are definitely under-recognized public health concerns here. Shame on these co-opers for exposing the rest of us to the limited and easily traceable and treatable dangers of small-scale, localized, transparently produced, single-point source unpasteurized milk!

    No, regulations on unpasteurized milk are not based in superstition. However, that doesn’t mean this isn’t a witch hunt and complete waste of resources demonstrating totally misplaced priorities.


       —Murph.    Oct. 29 '06 - 06:07PM    #
  11. “What, like industrial farming practices that increase dangers ranging from food tainted with e. coli, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, and the general case of drug resistant bacteria to manure runoff into waterways and higher levels of fat in general and saturated fat in particular?”

    That’s raising too many issues to address at once. I agree that they’re all problems to some degree, but I don’t see relaxing pasteurization regulations as directly relevant to any of them.


       —Bruce Fields    Oct. 29 '06 - 07:28PM    #
  12. Bruce is right to point out the reasoning behind the law. I don’t deny that there are health risks associated with consumption of raw dairy, though I, like Murph, do question the relative risk compared to the negative effects of factory farms, which receive less legislative scrutiny. All the same, I’ll try stepping down from my soap box and provide a little more rational input now.

    It seems pretty clear that since they are not going after the co-opers, the MDA is not interested in preventing the consumption of raw dairy. At least by owners. They seem more concerned with commercial distribution and mislabeling.

    I certainly would not want to buy a gallon of milk from Morgan & York only to find that through mislabeling they managed to smuggle a potential bio-hazard into my refrigerator. But that is not what is happening. Morgan & York are letting some guy park in their lot to hand out milk to co-op owners. The store is not selling any of the product and the product is not available to anyone besides co-opers for purchase (at least as I understand it).

    There’s been some indication that the store provided refrigerated storage space. I’m not sure that that is true, or that that is wrong. But if it is illegal to offer free storage space for the milk and eggs, a phone call to Morgan & York warning them of the situation probably would have sufficed. It hardly warrants a 5 month sting operation.

    In the end, the same people are still drinking the same milk in the same, unlabeled containers, producing the same public health risk. The main difference is that M&Y lost a few regular customers and the co-opers have a less convenient pick-up location and are pissed enough about the whole thing that they are organizing against the regulation.

    I don’t see this effort as protecting public health, although it may cut down on potential parking lot distribution of individual pieces of gum not labeled for retail and sales of matresses with the tag removed.

    (ok, I slipped there at the end.)

    Also- Wow, $6.50/gallon is steep!


       —Scott TenBrink    Oct. 30 '06 - 03:56AM    #
  13. “I agree that they’re all problems to some degree, but I don’t see relaxing pasteurization regulations as directly relevant to any of them.”

    I think that this is one of those old, neat, pro-farmer laws that are still around. Why any health organization would allow unpasteurized milk to be consumed by anyone but the direct owner of the cow in question is beyond me.

    Not that I personally think that allowing unpasteurized milk into the marketplace is a bad thing, but given the manic regulations that govern restaurants and food providers, this seems like a pretty weird lack of regulation.

    When I looked up current definitions of “pasteurized milk”, I found that the common method is to use a flash pasteurizer (essentially a hot water heat exchanger) running at 165F for 15 seconds. That’s some pretty intensive heat, relatively speaking.

    But in my mind, the most important thing that I’ve read about this case is that the milk plated “clean”....in other words, bacteria counts were well below acceptable levels. That means that the farmer is running a pretty damn clean plant.

    In the end, IMHO, the plate count is all that matters. Pasteurization isn’t going to kill 100% of the bacteria, and from what I’ve just read, milk is not normally filled “hot”, which means that it is cooled before it is filled into containers….so all that pasteurization is pointless if the filling machine gets contaminated (which is a not so infrequent occurrence in my industry).

    The important points are that the milk is clean, and that it is consumed quickly. The means to those ends are irrelevant.


       —todd    Oct. 30 '06 - 04:43AM    #