April 25, 2019

Alvin Schlangen Convicted in Stearns County Court

Alvin Schlangen, a raw milk farmer who was acquitted last year for raw milk-related violations, was convicted in a Stearns county court last week on charges that he was operating without a food handler’s license. He was also convicted of violating a food embargo, storing eggs at unsafe temperatures, distributing adulterated and/or misbranded food, and selling custom-processed meat.

GavelsThe three day trial concluded after the jury had deliberated for about four hours. Schlangen was convicted on all of the misdemeanor counts. He is now under a one-year probation that requires him to abide by Minnesota law or he will be jailed. The convictions carry a 15-month jail sentence and $5,000 in fines, but the judge reduced that to a suspended 90-day sentence and a $1,000 fine with $700 suspended.

In addition, Schlangen appealed Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) orders that would have brought him into compliance with food laws. In a recent hearing, an Administrative Law Judge ruled that “it was undisputed that Schlangen offered for sale a variety of foods, including unpasteurized milk and butter, and continues to do so.” Minnesota Consolidated Food Licensing Law “prohibits all persons from engaging in the business of manufacturing, processing, selling, handling, or storing food without having first obtained from the commissioner a license for doing such business.”

Schlangen says that he didn’t need the license because he’s not in the business of selling food commercially. But he delivers raw milk and other foods to customers of his private buying club, Freedom Farms Co-op, in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. And he sells foods through a number of outlets, including the internet and restaurants. On the internet, he sells fresh and frozen fruits, vegetables, meats, pizzas, and honey.

In 2009 and 2011, public health officials found Schlangen selling food at a Minneapolis warehouse that included  processed meat labeled “Not for Sale”, moldy fruit, and improperly refrigerated eggs and milk. Schlangen was offered the opportunity to buy a food handler’s license at the time and refused.

The MDA released a statement last year when Schlangen was acquitted on the raw milk charges, saying, “this new ruling does not wipe away the fact that many children and adults have gotten dangerously sick from consuming raw milk. It also does not wipe away the other legal ruling that have upheld MDA enforcement actions. Protecting the integrity of our food supply remains our top priority, and Minnesotans expect us to do that job using modern science and the law as our guide.”

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