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Farmer's Markets and raw milk

Missouri's 1999 Food Code law sparks debate

August 24, 2013|Lauren Pozen, KSPR News Reporter; Jonathan Wahl, KSPR News Photographer | lpozen@kspr.com

WEBSTER COUNTY, Mo. - Giving customers a choice when it comes to dairy products. That's the mission behind Daisy Belle Dairy.

"You go to the Farmer's Markets for fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, fresh eggs. We wanted to give people a choice," says Linda Burdette, owner of Daisy Belle Dairy. 

The Grade A raw milk is sold at farmers' markets throughout the Ozarks.

"It tastes amazing. The cooking benefits are awesome and neither of my kids have been sick since we've tried it," says customer Melissa Hulman.

Burdette says her dairy farm is one of three in Missouri with a raw retail license.

"We went through a lot of procedures, lot of inspections in order to be able to do that," says Burdette.

She says it allows her to sell raw milk anywhere in the state.

"Everyone has been very accepting of us. Springfield, Bolivar, Fair Grove, except Marshfield. The health department there just doesn't want us to sell raw milk there," she says.

Raw milk is not pasteurized. When the cows are milked, that milk put directly into a cooling tank for 48 hours. From there, it's bottled and sold at $7 dollars a gallon.

"Without being able to sell in Marshfield, with it being so close to where the farm is, it's really impacted our business," explains Burdette.

Jaci McReynolds, with the Webster County Health Department, released this statement to KSPR News:

"The Webster County Health Unit works cooperatively with the Marshfield Farmer's Market Manager to help ensure the Market is aware of regulations in Missouri's 1999 Food Code, which defines a "food  establishment" and clearly states that unpasteurized dairy products may not be present on the premises of a food establishment."

"I think that this is the personal agenda of the Webster County Health Department because they have been so adamant that they will not allow raw milk to be sold at the farmers' market," says President of the Marshfield Farmer's Market Association, Ray Hackett.

McReynolds says Webster County is following state law. But, some feel that's creating confusion.

"The health department thinks one way. The agriculture department thinks another way. Farmers' markets are caught in the middle of this whole mess," says Max Brixey, manager of the Marshfield Farmer's Market.

That's why Burdette wants to see a change in the 14-year-old law.

"If we're okay in Greene County, then we should be okay in Webster County too," she says.

Missouri's Food Code law says Grade A sellers can sell raw milk on the farm or deliver it to customers. That's because they're inspected by state regulators. Still, it can not be sold on the premises of a food establishment.

There are risks with raw milk. Unpasteurized dairy products contain harmful bacteria that can make you sick. Burdette says she talks about those risks to her customers. She also directs them to a website where they can learn about raw milk.

For more information:

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AgriMissouri Farmer's Market Handbook:  http://agrimissouri.com/pdf/fmhandbook.pdf

Rules of  Department of Agriculture: Production and Distribution of Retail Raw Milk and Milk Products: http://www.sos.mo.gov/adrules/csr/current/2csr/2c80-3.pdf

Missouri Food Code: http://health.mo.gov/safety/foodsafety/foodcode.php

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov

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