Thursday, October 12, 2017/lk
GRANGER The Washington State Department of Agriculture has suspended Pride and Joy Dairy’s raw milk processing plant license.
“They still have a production license,” department spokesman Hector Castro said.
That means they can take it to a processing plant, and it can still be sold as organic milk, he said
But it would not be raw organic milk. That is what Allen and Cheryl Voortman have marketed for years. According to Castro, the Voortmans have until Oct. 16 to appeal the decision.
Or they can put together a suitable action plan to deal with the “pathogens” in their milk. The department would review and determine if it is acceptable.
“The WSDA does not acknowledge any one else’s test results. So we don’t know if they will even accept what we give them,” said Cindy Umipig, Spokesman for the Voortmans, her parents.
Castro’s response was that the department has its own lab, and the Federal Drug Administration also uses it.
The Voortmans had not decided yesterday what action to take, according to Umipig.
They do not agree with the department that their milk is tainted by a Salmonella strain.
The strain Castro said the department found is a strain the caused hospitalization for two Washingtonians in January.
This the second time the Voortmans are shut down. They shut down voluntarily in February when the department said its testing had come up with the salmonella strain.
Umipig said the Voortmans weathered that 9-week storm and kept everyone employed. This time, it will be difficult.
“We had to lay off four employees, and we are trying to keep two more that depend on that part of the business, but only time will tell if we have enough work for them to keep them happy with the paycheck,” Umipig said.
The Voortmans say they had milk from the same batch the department used tested by an independent lab and came up with a different result.
Umipig said the independent testing came up negative for the salmonella strain the department says it found.
If that’s the case, Castro said, it can easily be explained.
The pathogens are not uniformly distributed through he milk, he said. There can be different results from two tests of the same gallon. He noted the department tested milk from four one-gallon samples.
“His claim is that the Health Department came up with the same results as them, but he does not mention that they are the same exact samples as the WSDA already had in hand,” Umipig said. “The health department was not given closed new samples for testing.”
Umipig said the Voortmans are considering all their options. They are working with an attorney but are not sure they want to take legal action.
“The government’s pockets are deep, and the laws are written to protect their interests, not ours,” Umipig said.
Umipig said the department told the Voortmans they have until Oct. 31 to submit and action plan. Castro said that date is not set in stone.
Umipig said time is important to the Voortmans, but they aren’t fearful their market will dry up while they work their way to a solution.
“We have some very loyal customers that came back to us as soon as we were up and running again, but it’s very hard to predict customers’ habits,” Umipig said.
Umipig said the Voortmans have lost their biggest retail account, two produce stores in Vancouver that sold an average of 150-180 gallons a week.
“They will no longer carry our milk even if we are able to get up and running,” Umipig said.