Got (raw) milk? Local mom fights delivery ban on unpasteurized milk


For north St. Anthony Park resident Charlene Chan-Muehlbauer, it all comes down to the health of her 22-year-old daughter. “To protect [her] access to raw milk,” says Chan-Muehlbauer, “I’m willing to go to jail.  But to be jailed for something like this—it’s just wrong.”

Chan-Muehlbauer is reacting to the latest development in a long-running dispute between the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) and families like hers, who believe so strongly in the nutritional and curative properties of unpasteurized milk that they’re willing to risk legal sanctions in order to get it.

In April, the MDA issued a formal warning that Chan-Muehlbauer and her husband, Gary Muehlbauer, could be subject to criminal prosecution unless she stops using their garage as a drop site for distribution of raw milk shipments from Sibley County farmer Mike Hartmann.

It’s a 90-mile drive to the Twin Cities in Hartmann’s refrigerated truck. When the milk arrives at a pre-arranged time, it sits in Styrofoam coolers in Chan-Muehlbauer’s detached garage until the approximately 20 families in her network pick up their allotments.

“Sometimes people wait overnight” to pick up their milk share, says Chan-Muehlbauer, but “we’ve all agreed that this is what we want.” She stresses that, aside from purchasing her own share of the milk, she’s not involved in “any financial dealings” with other families. “I just open my garage.”

This is not the first time that Farmer Hartmann has made news. In a 2005 decision in a case involving Hartmann, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that farmers had the right to sell products at their farms without a license. But the court also found that Hartmann and other farmers are not exempt from “substantive regulation” by the state.

It’s that definition of what constitutes the proper limits of regulation that provides the flashpoint for thedispute between the MDA and Chan-Muehlbauer. The issue was further exacerbated in 2010 when health department officials traced outbreaks of food-borne bacterial disease to Hartmann’s farm. In the most prominent case, there were eight documented cases of illness caused by a strain of E. coli found only on the Hartmann farm.

MDA spokesman Mike Schommer says, “Minnesota law is pretty simple. Raw milk sales are allowed if they take place on the farm. Sales that don’t follow that model are in violation.”

Chan-Muehlbauer disputes almost every aspect of the state’s argument. “People are not buying milk from me—they’re buying from the farm,” she says. “It’s not like this is a hallucinogenic substance. I don’t think [I’m doing] anything wrong or illegal.”

As for the 2010 outbreak of disease traced to Hartmann’s farm, Chan-Muehlbauer notes that no milk or milk products from the Hartmann farm ever tested positive for the unique E. coli strain found elsewhere on the farm. She doesn’t believe the state made their case. “I don’t think the science is clear,” she says, adding that far more people are sickened by E. coli outbreaks in raw produce, deli meats or seafood than in raw milk.

Dr. Kirk Smith, the Minnesota Department of Health official responsible for investigating the 2010 disease outbreaks, acknowledges that raw milk currently accounts for a relatively low percentage of documented cases of bacterial infections like E .coli, but says that’s because unpasteurized milk represents only 2 or 3 percent of all milk consumed.

“Raw milk is an inherently risky product,” he argues, “because poop comes out of the same end of the cow as milk.” Smith points to recent research from the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that finds that the risk of infectious disease from raw milk products (including milk, cheese and yogurt) is 150 times higher than from pasteurized milk and milk products.

Smith also disputes one of the other most prominent claims of raw milk adherents—that pasteurization destroys important nutritional elements of milk. “There isn’t any scientific data that show that raw milk is any more healthful than pasteurized,” he says. Smith acknowledges that the heating process of pasteurization destroys nutrients like Vitamin C, but he says Vitamin C occurs at insignificant levels in raw milk anyway.

For Chan-Muehlbauer, the health benefits of raw milk are indisputable. Eighteen months ago, her daughter, Amanda, tested positive in a blood test for  rheumatoid arthritis, a painful and debilitating autoimmune disorder that normally affects the joints. “She started getting aches and pains when she entered college,” says her mother. Eventually the young woman was forced to withdraw from college and was bedridden for seven months.

Unwilling to subject herself to the potential side effects of standard medications prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis, Chan-Muehlbauer’s daughter turned to an older remedy—raw milk. “She’s been drinking half a gallon of raw milk a day,” Chan-Muehlbauer says.

Eighteen months after beginning the regime, the young woman has returned to college. Chan-Muehlbauer is convinced that raw milk cured her child. “I don’t believe the MDA is acting out of malice,” she says, “but they need to allow consumers to make their own judgments.”

Responds Schommer, “Our commission is to protect the integrity of the food supply. We’re a law enforcement agency. If people wish to change the law, that’s one thing; but to ignore the law is not a good idea. It doesn’t work.”

7 thoughts on “Got (raw) milk? Local mom fights delivery ban on unpasteurized milk

  1. Hey, 

    Since when is the MN dept of Ag a LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY????  We have cops and sheriff departments, we don’t need an ag dept enforcing CODES as a law enforcement enforces laws.  I understand the need for standards but if I make a deal with my farmer and approve of how he operates, then butt out.  

    And really MN dept of Ag, I understand that you are there for a reason, and that is to protect the consumers for crappy food.  We raw milk drinkers for the vast majority know of the “risks” involved that you are trying to protect us from, we are educated about it.  Most of us know our farmer too.  I do not–and will not–consume milk or other products from the Hartmann farm but that is my choice.

    Also, poop comes out of the cows back end under the tail.  The udders are located under the cow.  When hand milking or traditional machine milking, the milkers are attached from  the side of the cow.  

    My farmer washes the udders and drys them prior to attaching the machine.  The machine, hoses, milkers, etc., are all cleaned very well with dairy soaps/cleansers/sanitizers and hung to dry.  The milk is cooled quickly.

    I have been to modern dairys that sell milk to bulk buyers, I even worked on one for a summer.  Different operation.  There, the animals were not washed prior to milking, they were teat dipped and wiped off.  They were fed larger amounts of grains but did get access to a pasture/hay.  They also had a lot of fly spray put on the animals.  They were rushed in and out but they were milking a lot more cows than a small farmer would!  

    In both cases the barns were clean and the animals were looking healthy.  But I would not drink milk from the large farm then and would not drink from it now unless it was boiled.  

    It is my choice to buy lettuce at the farmers market or at Cub.  I feel much safer buying at a farmers market than at ANY grocery store and want to support my local farmer.  THat is MY choice.  It is MY choice to buy local, it is my choice to drive out of my way to a market, it is my choice to drink the milk I want.

    Also, there are laws PROHIBITING the sale of cigarettes to anyone other than the person going to smoke them.  Meaning–even as an adult I am not supposed to buy cigs for another adult.  Why not enforce that?  Oh, I know, too much work and not your deptartment.

    Thank you for using our tax dollars in this way.  How much have you spent now going after Hartmann (and not getting anywhere–you have lost), and how much are you planning to spend going after Alvin Schlanngen?  These are our tax dollars and the operations you are going after are PRIVATE clubs and PRIVATE transactions over LEGAL items.  




  2. I am confused by the sentence “strain of e coli found only on the Hartmann farm.” Unique only in regards to the fact that the Health Department tested all the other foods that the supposed eight documented cases ate and the milk was the only food that had it? If so,  I would love to see that data because we are pursuing being able to have access to the hard facts- I was in the courtroom two years ago when Hartmann’s lawyer requested to have information on the sick people and was told he could not. He wanted to see the lab results that were positive, especially because Hartmann requested that they take a second set of samples at the time which were sent to an independent lab and came back 100? NEGATIVE, but was told he could not.

    This strain of E Coli is not “unique” to the Hartmann farm. It is a unique strain in the fact that it is a type of e coli- e coli being a bacteria that is found in all of our guts but this specific type has “uniquely” morped into an acid environment strain which, oddly enough, research has sugggested isn’t found in the gut of a purely grass fed cow (what Hartmann has) since they have an alkaline environment.

    This “unique” strain of e coli is, however, found in processed meats, ground beef, and undercooked chicken. The third of which happens to be what one of the people ate right before becoming sick. So where is the labwork on that chicken?  I’m not saying it doesn’t exist but if it does I would think that would be something to show the public. Kind of like those positive lab results we haven’t been able to see. It’s like a card trick- talked about but never really shown. Only watch the hand you’re told to.

    A confirmed culture of the source is very relevant to this concept, and we have heard that it exists. In the case of food poisoning, the burden is on the Health Dept to follow up and collect samples of every possible source. Was that done here? And would the fact that the MN Dept of Health received large sums of money from the FDA, who are leading a campaign to eradicate raw dairy across the country by 2015, be relevant here? I would love to see the investigative reporting on these issues and hope that these will become the forefront of discussions on this topic.

  3. Where has Mr Smith seen it lauded that raw milk is the new orange juice for Vitamin C and that is the main reason for drinking it? I checked the Weston A Price Foundation website and nowhere there did they saw to throw away your Vitamin C supplements and go suck a cow.

    What is claimed by raw milk proponents is the scientific evidence that heat kills bacteria. That’s kind of the reason why the pasteurization is occurring in the first place! But those of us who have been told by our Dr’s to take yoghurt with out antibiotics understand that there are bacteria that are very beneficial to our bodies. In fact, our digestion cannot occur normally without them. So unless Mr Smith claims that pasteurization can selectively target the “bad” bacteria I believe that he should re-examine the science behind his statements.

    Maybe he can look at why the forerunners of the world famous Mayo Clinic actually had a department that used raw milk to cure diseases and save people lives…

  4. I have suffered from digestional problems since I was a teenager.  For decades I suffered with severe cramping.  I had tried everything from high fiber diets, to pro-biotic pills, yogurts, etc.,etc.   Nothing worked.  The pain got so severe I would just lay cramped up on the floor with fever  and praying that a cure would be found. Doctors would end up giving me harsh magnesium concoctions to temporarily relieve the problem.

    My cure was found and that was raw milk.  It was a cup or two a day at first, but now it is less than a cup a week.  Is it some magic “nutitional value” in raw milk?  No.  It is the natural good bacteria found in the milk that my body needed in order to digest the food. 

    After several years of consuming raw milk I can’t imagine to living without it again.  In fact, I fear the pain that I will be forced to endure if the MDA has its way.

    To the MDA:  Help the Hartmann’s get properly licensed and find a safe way to get their product to consumers.  You can even make sure that each family is informed of the risks of raw dairy product before they consume the product.  That is all fine.  But don’t take away our rights as consumers. Don’t make me go back to living with the pain I had before raw dairy.

  5. I am so proud of this mom!  She is a true patriot.    It is the act of civil disobedience in the face of an out of control government that will inspire others to act in a way consistent with principles of freedom and liberty.

    While the MN Dept of Ag ignores nasty “foods” created out of GMO corn, MSG and artificial flavorings which cause people to be unhealthy (they aren’t confiscating or raiding or threatening the folks who distributed Doritos and Ramen Noodles, after all) they set their sights on threatening people who want to drink milk.

    Not just any milk, after all, but the type of milk from healthy grass fed cows that hasn’t been heated up to destroy the beneficial bacteria.  It is the demonstration of the dichotomy between the healthy, raw milk which gives health to those who drink it versus the poor digestion, allergies and ill health to those who drink pasteurized milk. It is this which terrifies the dairy industry…because if more people know the cleaner, healthier alternative that raw milk offers, they will be exposed for offering a bad product.

    I am a nursing mother and exclusively breastfeed for as long as possible, usually 6 months or more, then continue to nurse until my babies are 4 years old.  If raw milk were so bad, then human babies raised on human raw milk would get sick and die.  I can see it now….humans must first pump their milk, then boil/pasteurize it before it’s ok for a newborn…or better yet, just give your baby the MSG/HFCS combo that is formula…after all it’s “scientific” …. and makes industry billions of dollars a year.

    How to fight back?  Stand up as this brave mom has done.  Resolve that you will do the best thing for your family and your community regardless of whatever “laws” they pass.  Grow your own food and save your own seeds.  Even if it’s a small kitchen garden for your cooking herbs…start now to disconnect from them.  The Dept of Ag is working for the big businesses that control your food supply and prevent you from being healthy.  Corporate profits and convenience are the most important things to them.   Plant an apple tree. Plant asparagus.  Make our lawns into food…stop giving them money!!!!!!!

    May God richly bless and keep you as we fight against this evil together.

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