Missouri Milk Board Agrees to Allow Morningland Dairy to Test
11/10/10 – Doreen Hannes
Morningland Dairy of Missouri, the farmstead cheese operation that has been shut down and under investigation by the FDA and Missouri Milk Board since August 26th finally obtained agreement from the Milk Board to properly test their cheese. Morningland, a farmstead raw cheese company, was shut down over concern by the Missouri Milk Board and the FDA that their cheese may harbor harmful bacteria.
On Monday November 8th, Morningland Dairy attorney Gary Cox, of Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund, informed Morningland that an agreement had been reached with the Missouri Attorney General’s office which will allow Morningland to test batches of their cheese that have been under embargo since August by the Missouri Milk Board.
The Missouri Attorney General’s office, representing the Missouri Milk Board in legal action against Morningland Dairy, offered eight stipulations under which they would not object to the dairy testing their cheese. After negotiations, Morningland Dairy and the Missouri Milk Board settled on six requirements to be followed. The stipulations agreed to are that the Milk Board be present, have three representatives observing, receive split samples of the cheese, approve the sampling and analysis process, receive results after testing, and receive production dates of sampled cheese. The two stipulations that were dropped were the advance identification of the lab to do the testing and the identity of the individual who designed the protocol for test sample collection. The removal of these conditions is significant to Morningland because approved laboratories are licensed by the agencies investigating the contamination, and this secures the opportunity for testing through a non-affiliated lab in the nature of a double-blind study.
During the course of the investigation Joseph and Denise Dixon, owners of Morningland Dairy, have maintained that they should be allowed to do properly sampled tests on the alleged contaminants to clear their cheese for sale. Denise Dixon said, “It seems to me that if tests that are done improperly can condemn our cheese, accurately done tests should be able to exonerate the cheese.”
Conversely, Don Falls of the Missouri Milk Board has stated, “If you want to do testing for investigational purposes only, that would be fine.” The Milk Board has held that all Morningland Dairy’s cheese is suspect and must be destroyed. Joe Dixon responds, “We hope that the Milk Board will see reason. If properly collected test results indicate the cheese is clear of contamination, we should be allowed to sell and resume production.”
The agreement does not state that Morningland Dairy may resume normal business operations if tests indicate no pathogenic concerns.