Amish farmer Daniel Allgyer operated a dairy farm located in Kinzers, Pa., but he closed it after a federal court judge said he violated the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and the Public Health Services Act.
U.S. District Judge Lawrence F. Stengel issued his ruling on Feb. 3. The Justice Department (DOJ) announced it Feb. 15. Allgyer closed his farm two days before the announcement.
The Food and Drug Administration conducted an investigation of Allgyer’s Rainbow Acres Farm and Rainbow Valley Farms between 2009 and 2011.
The investigation began after an undercover FDA agent stumbled upon online chatter concerning the sale of raw milk.
The government’s original complaint states that FDA investigators were denied permission by Allgyer to inspect his farm when they showed up at his property Feb. 4, 2010.
A warrant was soon issued and the investigators returned on April 20 of that year.
During the inspection, investigators discovered numerous portable coolers in the home’s driveway and in a walk-in cooler that contained what appeared to be milk and other dairy products, according to the complaint.
The containers were labeled with names of towns and other locations within Maryland.
Through its investigation, the FDA proved that what Rainbow was selling was unpasteurized, or “raw” milk in unlabeled containers.
Pennsylvania permits the sale of unpasteurized milk. The states of California, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Arizona are among 10 states where raw milk sales are legal.
Federal law, however, bans the sale and transportation of the unpasteurized product across state lines.
The retail sale of raw milk is also illegal in certain states, some of which, such as New Jersey, West Virginia, Delaware and Maryland, border Pennsylvania.
The FDA investigation was activated because of the interstate commerce clause in the Constitution. The FDA prohibits the sale of unpasteurized milk because the federal government says it contains a wide variety of harmful bacteria, including Listeria, E.coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Yersinia and Brucella.
Allgyer had been warned by the FDA that his interstate business violated federal law. But according to the DOJ, “instead of ceasing his illegal operations, Mr. Allgyer attempted to evade federal regulations that prohibit the interstate sale of raw milk by creating a private membership organization that he used to enter into cow-sharing agreements with his customers.”
The court said the cow-sharing agreements were a ploy and issued an order enjoining Allgyer and his associates from them. A cow-sharing agreement is when someone purchases an interest in a herd of cows. The share owners pay a farmer a fee for boarding their cow, (or share of a cow), caring for the cow and milking the cow. The cow share owner then obtains (but does not purchase) the milk from his own cow.
FDA spokeswoman Siobhan DeLancey told Lancaster’s Intelligencer Journal last week that the agency was “very pleased with the court’s decision.”
Justice Department echoed that sentiment.
“The FDA has determined that drinking raw milk can cause significant harm,” said Tony West, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “Working with our federal partners, we will bring enforcement actions like this one to ensure that the American food supply is safe and consumers are not exposed to such risks. We are pleased that the court has ordered Mr. Allgyer to stop distributing unpasteurized milk across state lines.”
Some food purists and natural foods proponents, however, aren’t so pleased with the judge’s ruling, viewing it as government overreaching.
According to the website LancasterFarming.com, unpasteurized milk is just one of the natural food type products that are becoming popular among food purists.
“There is a burgeoning market for raw milk based on health claims and a growing public demand for ‘natural’ food products,” the website states.