Caught in the Act: Lori and Darren McGrath Gain Support for a Bogus Listeria Finding in NY
Practically a year to the day after I wrote about the suspicious finding by New Yorks Department of Agriculture and Markets of listeria monocytogenes in the raw milk produced by Lori and Darren McGraths Autumn Valley Farm in Worcester, the agency has come up with a second identical finding.
Last Friday, it put out one of its scarlet lettersa press release announcing the finding that gets picked up and posted by the legal low lives of the world, never to be taken downsaying the agencys lab had found listeria and the McGraths were halting sales of raw milk.
Only this time, the agency has a problem. The McGraths learned a hard lesson from their experience last July, and resolved to do split-sample tests of everything the state took for testing. So a sample from the same batch of raw milk that NY Ag & Markets took on July 22 went off to an independent lab in Ithaca, NY, hired by the McGrathsa lab that does any number of state-mandated tests as well.
The results just came back from the independent lab and, you guessed it, no sign of listeria monocytogenes.
Needless to say, Lori is pretty upset, since she and Darren not only face the loss of business from having to halt sales of raw milk, but a fine from the agency as well. And, of course, no one has become ill, just as no one became ill during last summers episode. I dont understand how there can be such a discrepancy, she says.
She adds that the customers she has called to inform of the states finding, under requirement by the state, haven't even considered discontinuing consumption of Autumn Valley's raw milk. All these people are continuing to drink it.
Lori says she knows well the dangers of listeria monocytogenesthat it can kill children, and cause miscarriages in pregnant women. I am a mother. If I thought for a second that a child would get sick, I wouldnt be doing thisYou try your very best because you are feeding babies and children.
Why would NY Ag & Markets be coming up with false positives? Lori doesnt want to speculate, but I will. There is a movement in New York to legalize retail sales of raw milk, including a legislative proposal, as I reported last month. If and when hearings are held, NY Ag & Markets wants all the scare story ammunition it can possibly muster to defeat any such movement it doesnt control with an iron fist.
Adding insult to injury, its very difficult to get judges to rule against state agencies on the basis of test result discrepancies, says Gary Cox, a lawyer for the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, since scientists can point to differences in lab techniques to create doubts among judges. Justice is definitely in short supply for New Yorks producers of raw milk, and NY Ag & Markets is definitely in a trampling mood.