A Victory For Food Freedom In Minnesota

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In Minnesota a jury has decided that a man distributing raw (unpasteurized) milk from organic farmers to members of a food club isn’t a criminal:

Schlangen, an organic egg farmer, doesn’t produce milk himself but operates a private club called Freedom Farms Co-op with roughly 130 members who buy various farm products, including raw milk. Schlangen picks up milk products from an Amish farm and delivers them to members who lease the cows.

Raw milk is unpasteurized, meaning it hasn’t been heat-treated to kill pathogens. Under Minnesota law, it can be sold directly to consumers only on the farm where it’s produced.

During closing arguments, Schlangen’s attorney, Nathan Hansen, argued that Schlangen was not operating a business, rather a private food club, and that no one got sick from the raw milk.

Assistant Minneapolis City Attorney Michelle Doffing-Baynes said food safety laws are in place to prevent people from getting sick.

This is an interesting commentary on the role of government in our lives. It’s one thing for the government to promote best practices for food safety, and to warn consumers of food dangers, but in a case where people are aware of the dangers of a certain food and choose to consume it anyway, what right does the government have to tell them they can’t?

Think of the smoking issue, or the obesity issue. At this point in time, the American public is well aware of the dangers of smoking and eating junk food. We know it’s not healthy. If some of us choose to smoke or eat junk food anyway, what right does the government have to restrict our choices?

It is one thing to inform the public about risks. It is quite another to stop people from making choices because the government has decided the choice in question is too risky. Our government, on all sorts of issues, has crossed that line.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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  • http://nofreelunch.areavoices.com/ Kevin Flanagan

    That’s a rare occurrence in the state “where nothing is allowed.”

  • robert108

    A very sensible legal decision. I think the claim of “food freedom” is a little hyperbolic, but then it’s just what we would expect from an activist.

  • http://flamemeister.com flamemeister

    About 35 years ago or so church potlucks were outlawed in St. Louis Park, MN. Since then it was determined—presumably by checking on church-potluck sickness rates in other areas— that the rate of illness resulting from church potlucks was lower than that from eating restaurant food. My brother, a licensed dietitian, told me that, statistically speaking, you get food poisoning at least 3-4 times a year if you eat regularly in restaurants, worse if you eat in 24/7 restaurants. Most of the time the symptoms are minor and shrugged off as “a touch of the flu” or presumed sensitivity to certain ingredients.

    • Rick Olson

      A slight bit of correction. Church potlucks were outlawed by local ordinances in St. Louis Park as you mention. I did a search on the subject, and found the following recent legislative action in Minnesota:

      CHAPTER 65-H.F.No. 967
      An act relating to health; permitting schools to
      sponsor potluck events; permitting fraternal or
      patriotic organizations to sell home-prepared food at
      certain events; amending Minnesota Statutes 2000,
      section 157.22.
      BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MINNESOTA:
      Section 1. Minnesota Statutes 2000, section 157.22, is
      amended to read:
      157.22 [EXEMPTIONS.]
      This chapter shall not be construed to apply to:
      (1) interstate carriers under the supervision of the United
      States Department of Health and Human Services;
      (2) any building constructed and primarily used for
      religious worship;
      (3) any building owned, operated, and used by a college or
      university in accordance with health regulations promulgated by
      the college or university under chapter 14;
      (4) any person, firm, or corporation whose principal mode
      of business is licensed under sections 28A.04 and 28A.05, is
      exempt at that premises from licensure as a food or beverage
      establishment; provided that the holding of any license pursuant
      to sections 28A.04 and 28A.05 shall not exempt any person, firm,
      or corporation from the applicable provisions of this chapter or
      the rules of the state commissioner of health relating to food
      and beverage service establishments;
      (5) family day care homes and group family day care homes
      governed by sections 245A.01 to 245A.16;
      (6) nonprofit senior citizen centers for the sale of
      home-baked goods; and
      (7) fraternal or patriotic organizations that are tax
      exempt under section 501(c)(3), 501(c)(4), 501(c)(6), 501(c)(7),
      501(c)(10), or 501(c)(19) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986,
      or organizations related to or affiliated with such fraternal or
      patriotic organizations. Such organizations may organize events
      at which home-prepared food is donated by organization members
      for sale at the events, provided:
      (i) the event is not a circus, carnival, or fair;
      (ii) the organization controls the admission of persons to
      the event, the event agenda, or both; and
      (iii) the organization’s licensed kitchen is not used in
      any manner for the event; and
      (7) (8) food not prepared at an establishment and brought
      in by individuals attending a potluck event for consumption at
      the potluck event. An organization sponsoring a potluck event
      under this clause may advertise the potluck event to the public
      through any means. Individuals who are not members of an
      organization sponsoring a potluck event under this clause may
      attend the potluck event and consume the food at the event.
      Licensed food establishments other than schools cannot be
      sponsors of potluck events. A school may sponsor and hold
      potluck events in areas of the school other than the school’s
      kitchen, provided that the school’s kitchen is not used in any
      manner for the potluck event. For purposes of this clause,
      “school” means a public school as defined in section 120A.05,
      subdivisions 9, 11, 13, and 17, or a nonpublic school, church,
      or religious organization at which a child is provided with
      instruction in compliance with sections 120A.22 and 120A.24.
      Potluck event food shall not be brought into a licensed food
      establishment kitchen.
      Presented to the governor April 30, 2001
      Signed by the governor May 2, 2001, 2:52 p.m.

      Also:

      CHAPTER 378-S.F.No. 3348
      An act relating to health; modifying requirements for
      potluck events sponsored by organizations; amending
      Minnesota Statutes 1998, section 157.22.
      BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MINNESOTA:
      Section 1. Minnesota Statutes 1998, section 157.22, is
      amended to read:
      157.22 [EXEMPTIONS.]
      This chapter shall not be construed to apply to:
      (1) interstate carriers under the supervision of the United
      States Department of Health and Human Services;
      (2) any building constructed and primarily used for
      religious worship;
      (3) any building owned, operated, and used by a college or
      university in accordance with health regulations promulgated by
      the college or university under chapter 14;
      (4) any person, firm, or corporation whose principal mode
      of business is licensed under sections 28A.04 and 28A.05, is
      exempt at that premises from licensure as a food or beverage
      establishment; provided that the holding of any license pursuant
      to sections 28A.04 and 28A.05 shall not exempt any person, firm,
      or corporation from the applicable provisions of this chapter or
      the rules of the state commissioner of health relating to food
      and beverage service establishments;
      (5) family day care homes and group family day care homes
      governed by sections 245A.01 to 245A.16;
      (6) nonprofit senior citizen centers for the sale of
      home-baked goods; and
      (7) food not prepared at an establishment and brought in by
      members of an organization individuals attending a potluck event
      for consumption by members at a the potluck event. An
      organization sponsoring a potluck event under this clause may
      advertise the potluck event to the public through any means.
      Individuals who are not members of an organization sponsoring a
      potluck event under this clause may attend the potluck event and
      consume the food at the event. Licensed food establishments
      cannot be sponsors of potluck events. Potluck event food shall
      not be brought into a licensed food establishment kitchen.
      Presented to the governor April 10, 2000
      Signed by the governor April 13, 2000, 4:30 p.m.

  • headward

    This is all about private property and voluntarily entering into agreements. People agreed to enter the property, buy the property(milk) and assume all risks(and benefits). Sounds like the anti-smoking crowd could hint from this. Nobody, and I mean nobody is forcing you to enter private property where smoking is allowed. Smoking and raw milk only affects the people agreeing to assume the risk to enter the property.
    I don’t really like raw milk or smoking. I do like freedom of choice and doing what I want without the government telling what to do.

  • Waski_the_Squirrel

    My grandparents like to talk about the farmhand that worked for them and refused to drink the milk from cows. He would only drink store milk. He just couldn’t conceive of the connection between the mooing animals he worked with and the white stuff in the store.

    That said, raw milk is one of those things that are silly, but government should not intrude upon. There is more danger in drinking raw milk, but that doesn’t matter (as long as it’s clearly labeled as such). I have the right to decide what to put in my body. As long as my body belongs to me, the government should have no control over it. I am frightened of a world where my body belongs to the government.

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