15 Tons of Raw Cheese Trashed Over Legal Dispute; Owner Blames Government

Morningland Dairy Forfeits Its Product After Bacteria Found

Yahoo Contributor Network

A local dairy owner is cheesed over how the Missouri Milk Board ordered 15 tons of cheese destroyed after a 2 1/2-year legal dispute. Joseph Dixon, owner of Morningland Dairy near Mountain View, Mo., told KYTV he "sees the destruction" of a livelihood his family "worked to build" for years in southern Missouri. On Friday, heavy moving equipment dumped nearly 30,000 pounds of raw cheese into a dumpster headed to a landfill. How the product got there is the dramatic end to a long struggle.

* Dixon's raw cheese was called into question when tests done in California revealed two types of bacteria in the product. The KYTV piece states a second test was conducted in St. Louis and found similar results from California -- listeria and staph-aureus were found.

* Dixon disputes the test, believing raw cheese is healthier than other cheese. His cheesemaking equipment was found to be free of bacteria by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. He also told the news media outlet the government hasn't "found anything, no sicknesses, no illnesses in 30 years."

* The Morningland Dairy website shows Dixon's frustration with the process. The family worked with the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) to appeal the process. The dairy owner said the state and FDA used "improperly handled and very questionable test results from California" before recalling all of the cheese made in 2010.

* Dixon also asserts authorities "ordered us to make unaffordable changes to our plant that are not required according to regulation … ." Morningland Dairy then urged anyone passionate about the case to make their feelings known to state officials, including lawmakers.

* Courts sided with the Missouri Milk Board, an entity that embargoed the cheese 2 1/2 years ago after the bacterial tests. Both Howell County Circuit Court and the Missouri Court of Appeals upheld the Board's authority on the matter. Dixon asked for a jury trial but was denied because the case stemmed from a regulation and not a law.

* The Missouri Milk Board embargoed product beginning Aug. 26, 2010, after the California Department of Food and Agriculture seized cheese from the Rawesome food club in Venice, Calif. Slightly more than a month later, Dixon received a letter requesting all cheese at the facility be destroyed. When the owners refused, legal action began.

* Legal documents posted by the FTCLDF reveal facts about the case. The Missouri Supreme Court refused to hear the case as of Dec. 18. The Missouri Court of Appeals found "no error and affirm the judgment" of the lower court . In defending its case, the appellate court cited a 1975 New York decision regarding a portion of a batch of peaches found to be contaminated with insects. In U.S. v. 900 Cases Peaches , the entire production of canned peaches was condemned on simply testing less than 100 cans out of more than 10,000 cans.

* One point made by the appellate court is that Dixon found just 0.048 percent of his cheese to be tested for contamination. His figure was derived by the weight of the cheese tested versus the weight of his entire inventory. The Milk Board used different calculations -- the state found 14 percent of the cheese was found to be suspect based upon the number of cheeses tested versus the number of cheeses on hand. Missouri regulators determined if one portion of a block of cheese is contaminated, the entire block is rotten.

William Browning, a lifelong Missouri resident, writes about local and state issues for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. Born in St. Louis, Browning earned his bachelor's degree in English from the University of Missouri. He currently resides in Branson.

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