Author: Vanessa Fultz, Democrat Reporter
Publication Date: 2005-12-09
Local farmers are going to Representative Dwight Stansel to try to amend regulations for selling raw cow’s milk. Stansel is holding a public meeting on the issue Dec. 12 at 10:30 a.m. at Live Oak City Hall.
Owner of Full Circle Farms Dennis Stoltzfoos said dairy inspectors from each state held a national conference call about eight months ago expressing concerns about the selling of raw milk, and since then many inspectors have taken action against small farmers.
The Department of Agriculture holds to USDA and FDA regulations, saying the consumption of raw milk can transmit bacteria that can be dangerous or even fatal. The Department claims the consumption of raw milk can result in listeria, E. coli, salmonella and campylobacter pathogens, resulting in the risks of gastrointestinal illnesses.
In response to the conference call, Stoltzfoos’ farm found itself held under the microscope, he said. On July 7, the Department of Agriculture’s Chief of Food and Meat Inspection Dr. John Fruin came to Full Circle Farms calling for changes in its practices, Stoltzfoos said.
Stoltzfoos said Fruin gave his farm a stop sell order saying he was selling under a food establishment without appropriate permits.
Stoltzfoos said he was told in order to meet regulations to sell raw milk, the farm would have to buy a food establishment permit and make renovations to the farm, including the building of a farm store.
“And after meeting these regulations it would still be questionable whether we could sell raw milk,” Stoltzfoos said.
Spokesperson for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Terence McElroy said several inspectors visited Full Circle Farms in June in which time Stoltzfoos kicked them off of his property and told them he would not comply with the Department. The Department returned to Stoltzfoos farm on July 7 with a stop sell order.
“Stoltzfoos was selling agriculture products without a permit; the stop sell order prohibits him from selling vegetables, milk and meat.” McElroy said.
Stoltzfoos said since that time he has purchased a pet food license.
With a pet food license the farm could sell raw milk with appropriate labels attached, saying the product is not for human consumption but for pet consumption only.
“Though you can sell raw milk with a pet food license, it has to be for that purpose; you can’t just slap a label on it and market it to people,” McElroy said
Stoltzfoos said he and other local farmers are not some outlandish group pushing for regulations to be changed everywhere and for every farmer.
“We simply want a small farm exemption put in place,” he said, explaining his customers buy the raw milk because they believe pasteurization and other processing saps milk of its taste and nutrition. “We feel it’s reasonable to request this exemption for mom and pop farms.”
With about 100 customers who buy the raw milk, Stoltzfoos said his customers are outraged.
“We just want the consumer to get for their families what they have chosen to consume,” he said explaining there are at least 1,000 people in the state of Florida who drink raw cow’s milk. “The consumer wants a food the Department of Agriculture does not want the consumer to have.”
Stoltzfoos said as a result of the no sell order his customers have written several politicians and he has gone public with the issue.
“My customers are upset and have used choice words about the regulations; thousands of letters have went out about the issue,” he said.
The Department of Agriculture also took issues with Full Circle Farms’ web site, saying because the site contained information about human health, this translated into being a food establishment and therefore had to be regulated as such, Stoltzfoos said.
“There was nothing on the web site convincing people to drink raw cow’s milk; we simply had health information on it,” Stoltzfoos said explaining he took down the web site after it was questioned.
“Stoltzfoos was advertising over the Internet; he was clearly marketing raw milk to people.” McElroy said.
McElroy said because Stoltzfoos refused to comply with the Department, two administrative complaints have been filed against him. One, marketing to people agriculture products without a license, and two, operating a farm in less than sanitary conditions.
“Stoltzfoos contested the Department and hired an attorney,” McElroy said. “We are now working with him and his attorney to work out a settlement.”
Stoltzfoos, who says he has been a human health consultant for 15 years involving himself in alternative health practices, doesn’t believe there is any science to support claims about raw milk being dangerous.
“When Fruin came to the farm in July, I asked him to provide me with scientific documentation backing claims regarding the dangers of raw milk; I was given no such documentation,” he said claiming FDA and USDA regulations are based on opinions.
Stoltzfoos, who said his children have never had any immunizations and are at top-notch health, believes in consuming mostly organic vegetables and other foods. For the most part, chemicals are not used on his farm. No chemical fertilization is used on the farm’s produce. His cattle are not given antibiotics or hormones.
Stoltzfoos is affiliated with the raw-milk advocacy group the Weston A. Price Foundation and said drinking raw milk is a trend that’s coming back because of the milk’s nutritional value.
“Before 100 years ago people drank raw milk for thousands of years,” he said. “If it’s really about a human health issue why don’t they stop the selling of cigarettes?”
Stoltzfoos said it all boils down to the issue of money, big business and the pharmaceutical industry.
“Big money is often behind their efforts,” he said.
Vanessa Fultz may be reached by calling 1-386-362-1734 ext. 130 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.