Will Jury Trial Make a Difference in Schlangen Food Rights Case? Mmmm, Pasteurized Eggs; A Primer on Raw Milk Debate
At long last there will be a jury trial of a raw dairy provider.
After six years of legal cases involving raw dairy providers in New York (Meadowsweet Dairy), Wisconsin (Max Kane, Zinnikers, Craigs), Missouri (Morningland Dairy), and Ohio (Carol Schmitmeyer), a jury will be asked to decide the fate of Alvin Schlangen in Minnesota. In only the Ohio case did a judge rule in favor of the raw dairy provider.
The Schlangen trial is now scheduled to begin next Monday, May 21, and is expected to last three days. The Schlangen trial was originally scheduled to begin today (Monday), but apparently got crowded out by the usual overload of cases. The Minnesota farmer and food club manager is charged with four misdemeanor counts of selling mislabeled and “adulterated” food, as well as selling without a permit. He could receive a maximum of a year in jail.
The judge in the case offered Schlangen a possible deal, whereby he would have pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count and been placed on probation. Schlangen rejected it.
Prior to the brief court proceedings, approximately 150 demonstrators gathered outside the Hennepin County courthouse in Minneapolis to hear Minnesota food rights participants, along with Canadian farmer Michael Schmidt, demand that regulators and prosecutors stop their campaign against private food availability in the state.
Elisa Berry, a member of Schlangen’s food club, said her two children were lactose intolerant, and could only tolerate raw milk. Their health has improved since she began feeding them raw milk. “What Alvin Schlangen does with our food is between him and us. It is a private contract. We have the right to the products of our choice.”
Said Schmidt: “It doesn’t help if they tell you you can eat as much as you want, so long as you eat only what they tell you.”
On Sunday, about 60 participants heard from seven different activists at the sold-out Food Rights Workshop outside Minneapolis. Presenters included John Moody, a Kentucky farmer and food club organizer; Liz Reitzig of the Raw Milk Freedom Riders; Michael Schmidt; Mary Gercke, an Illinois nurse and mother; Michael Badnarik, a U.S. Constitution expert; myself; and Mel Olson, a Minnesota mother who is among nine or ten individuals targeted with warning letters threatening criminal prosecution by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture for providing their homes as drop points for raw milk, eggs, meat, and other products from farmer Michael Hartmann.
Mary Gercke discussed the dilemma facing a health care provider who provided raw milk to her own family, but advised patients of the obstetrical practice where she worked to abide by U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines. The nurse wasn't ready to risk her own position by sharing her real feelings with patients. “Sacrifice is a difficult thing to carry out,” Gercke said.
Olson said she has only become an activist in the last two years, since Hartmann was accused by the Minnesota Department of Public Health with being responsible for eight or more illnesses from E.coli 0157:H7. “This regulatory Frankenstein…is crippling another avenue of freedom,” she told the attendees, encouraging them to become more active. “I’m often tempted to think I’m an average mom. I’m not. And you are not, either.”
Olson has publicly said she plans to defy the MDA’s warning. According to Hartmann, who attended the workshop, none of those warned have indicated to him they plan to discontinue allowing their homes to be used as drop sites. Moreover, additional individuals who allow him to drop off products at their homes, and weren’t formally warned, have similarly indicated they won’t be intimidated.
“They all know that (the MDA) isn’t after them,” he said of his drop site families. The MDA “is after me.”
USA Today had a story about Alvin Schlangen’s legal situation. The state of Minnesota attempted to present the situation as one in which it is responsible for monitoring the safety of all food in the state, including that sold privately. Schlangen and the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund presented it as a case of a private contractual relationship between a food club and its members.
So when can we expect eggs to come under attack as a dangerous food, requiring pasteurization? The buildup may already be under way. And what would a world dominated by pasteurized eggs be like? Take a look at this taste test comparing real eggs with the pasteurized variety. Something to look forward to.
Finally, I wrote an overview about the raw milk controversy for a food site, CookingUpaStory. It is intended for individuals just beginning to learn about raw milk.