“A yearlong sting operation, including aliases, a 5 a.m. surprise inspection and surreptitious purchases from an Amish farm in Pennsylvania, culminated in the federal government announcing this week that it has gone to court to stop Rainbow Acres Farm from selling its contraband to willing customers in the Washington area.
The product in question: unpasteurized milk.
It’s a battle that’s been going on behind the scenes for years, with natural foods advocates arguing that raw milk, as it’s also known, is healthier than the pasteurized product, while the Food and Drug Administration says raw milk can carry harmful bacteria such as salmonella, E. coli and listeria.
“It is the FDA’s position that raw milk should never be consumed,” said Tamara N. Ward, spokeswoman for the FDA, whose investigators have been looking into Rainbow Acres for months, and who finally last week filed a 10-page complaint in federal court in Pennsylvania seeking an order to stop the farm from shipping across state lines any more raw milk or dairy products made from it.
The farm’s owner, Dan Allgyer, didn’t respond to a message seeking comment, but his customers in the District of Columbia and Maryland were furious at what they said was government overreach.
“I look at this as the FDA is in cahoots with the large milk producers,” said Karin Edgett, a D.C. resident who buys directly from Rainbow Acres. “I don’t want the FDA and my tax dollars to go to shut down a farm that hasn’t had any complaints against it. They’re producing good food, and the consumers are extremely happy with it.”
The FDA’s actions stand in contrast to other areas where the Obama administration has said it will take a hands-off approach to violations of the law, including the use of medical marijuana in states that have approved it, and illegal-immigrant students and youths, whom the administration said recently will not be targets of their enforcement efforts….”
“When Gen. David Patraeus takes over direction of the Central Intelligence Agency sometime in the next few months, he may want to begin mining the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for some new talent.
The FDA sent a number of its agents into undercover mode to gather the goods on Dan Allgyer, the Pennsylvania Amish farmer named in a complaint filed on behalf of the FDA by the U.S. Department of Justice seeking a permanent injunction prohibiting the farmer from distributing milk outside of Pennsylvania.
According to the complaint filed in U.S. District court a couple weeks back, the FDA undercover effort has been going on for more than a year. “In late 2009, an investigator in FDA’s Baltimore District Office used aliases to join” the cooperative that Allgyer’s farm was supplying in Maryland and Washington, DC. The complaint noted that the group “warns group members to ‘not share information about our group and certainly not about our farmer’ with government agencies or doctors…”
Over the 15 months between December 2009 and March 2011, additional FDA investigators used the cooperative’s “online ordering website and placed orders for unpasteurized cow milk on 23 occasions…Payment for each purchase was made in the form of a money order payable to Dan Allgyer.” Payment was either mailed to Allgyer “or left inside a zip closure bag that was located at the pick up site in Maryland. FDA investigators picked up each unpasteurized milk order at various private residences in Maryland.”
I’m sure it will reassure the owners of these homes to know that FDA investigators were roaming their garages, decks, and back yards, snooping around, doing everything necessary to protect the owners and other food club members from not only the milk, but the eggs, beef, chicken, and other foods they sign on for from the Allgyer farm.
That wasn’t the end of the investigation, though. “An FDA laboratory analyzed twelve of the twenty-three samples of milk purchased by the FDA investigators and confirmed that all twelve were unpasteurized.” Whew! Got to tie up those loose ends….”