“Last Thursday, the day before the Third Annual Raw Milk Symposium was due to get under way at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Bloomington, MN, hotel chef Pierre Jean Laupies had a visit from two local health department inspectors.
“They said they received a complaint,” he related in a conversation this morning. “They told me, ‘Do not use raw milk. Do not handle raw milk.’” (Who made the “complaint”? Ah, the inspectors couldn’t say. Maybe Joe in communicable diseases, or Mary in restaurant inspections. Or maybe an inspector just saw the Symposium’s reference to the upcoming “unveiling of our Traditional Foods Menu” for the weekend, and didn’t know what the hell traditional foods are.)
Since Laupies, a Frenchman who has been in the U.S. for the last 37 years, and a chef at the Embassy Suites for the past 20 years, had no plans to serve raw milk, he told the agents there was no problem. He even offered to show them a list of all the food in the hotel kitchen, which they declined. But just to make sure he got the broad message, “One of them said, ‘You know what happened to Mr. Hartmann. You don’t want that to happen to you.’”
The reference to “what happened to Mr. Hartmann,” of course, was a reference to the embargo placed on dairy farmer Michael Hartmann’s inventory after eight people became ill from E.coli O157:H7 linked to his farm last May. The food was eventually ordered destroyed after a legal challenge by Hartmann was rejected. An effort by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to bring contempt-of-court charges against Hartmann for giving much of the food to his family for consumption before it could be destroyed was eventually dismissed by a state judge.
As Laupies related the story of Thursday’s visit, in his heavy French accent, it was clear the implied threat of interference with his food choices upset his sensibilities as a French-trained chef. “They were very polite,” he said of the two agents who visited his kitchen. “One of them said she grew up on a farm drinking raw milk. But she said the raw milk being served today has pathogens that weren’t around in her day.”
Yes, the old “good old days” line you hear from public health and agriculture regulators so often. Raw dairy was fine for them, but too bad they can’t allow others to enjoy the same benefits.
By the way, Laupies is quite the chef. He and his staff embraced the local food—beef, pork, butter, cream, potatoes—donated by local farmers, and the meals were a high point of the weekend Symposium events….”