In MN Food Rights Trial, What Comes First, the Regulator Or the Egg?
Were Minnesota farmer Alvin Schlangen's eggs unsafe because they were sitting out at room temperature for some hours?
On Day 2 of Schlangen's criminal trial yesterday, that was one of the key questions under consideration, as Schlangen took the stand in his own defense. One of the charges against him is that the eggs he sells to food club members were kept at temperatures above 45 degrees.
The charge kind of cracked like a thin egg shell when a Minnesota Department of Agriculture agent testified that, no, she hadn't measured the temperature of the eggs. Moreover, she was relying on dates from the egg cartons Schlangen used as evidence the eggs were quite old. Schlangen testified that, like most smaller egg sellers, he relies heavily on recycled cartons.
Jurors also learned from food club member and defense witness Kathryn Niflis Johnson that eggs in Europe aren't required to be refrigerated.
The line of the day for the jurors may have come from Johnson as well. When she was asked why the food from Schlangen is so important to her, she stated, "Food is the foundation of health." One of the six jurors nodded vigorously in affirmation.
From Schlangen's perspective, that attitude from jurors may be essential in determining his fate. The prosecution has been relentless in pounding home the idea that Schlangen is an unlicensed commercial food dealer; the prosecutor brought in at least half a dozen food producers (like a frozen vegetable producer) who testified Schlangen purchased food from them. In cross-examining Kathryn Niflis Johnson, who is trained as a registered nurse, the prosecutor asked her if she advocated anyone being able to call themselves a nurse, without a license.
She noted that having a nursing license "is a perceived benefit to others, who can see I've met certain criterial. In the case of our food, we non't need or want that...it is restrictive rather than helpful."
Defense attorney Hansen's moves to have the case decided in Schlangen's favor (including the motion I described in my previous post), were dismissed by the judge.
The case should wrap up today and go to the jury.
For another excellent recap of yesterday's events, take a look at the latest post from food rights lawyer Amy Salberg.
Might the Minnesota Department of Agriculture finally achieve its decade-long goal of getting raw dairy farmer Michael Hartmann jailed? That possibility seemed to increase, based on this account of the results of a hearing held Monday. The state confiscated a truckload of his food during deliveries, and is arguing he violated his probation rules.