The StarTribune reports that farmer Mike Hartmann, who sold raw milk linked to an outbreak of illness caused by dangerous E. coli bacteria, repeatedly told government attorneys in court Wednesday that he couldn’t remember simple details about his dairy operation that is under a bitterly contested impoundment order.
Among the things he said he couldn’t remember were his home address and the address of his dairy farm and why he claimed in a dispute with the state nine years ago not to own the farm he now says he’s owned since 1974. He also said he forgot where he learned how to sterilize his milking equipment.
Hartmann has been at odds with the Minnesota Agriculture Department, which impounded several hundred tubs of milk, ice cream and other foods in June after an E. coli outbreak sickened eight people and sent some to the hospital.
Hartmann also shed little light on some sanitation issues. Hartmann said his cows’ udders were cleaned regularly to prevent infection. When Kimberly Middendorf, an assistant state attorney general, asked about photos showing blotches on the udders, he said he couldn’t be sure whether they were skin pigment, dirt or manure.
Asked about state food safety regulations, Hartmann said he considered many of them "arbitrary" rather than beneficial. He also said that, as a farmer selling products direct to consumers, he believed he was exempt from the state rules.
Middendorf said that while farmers are allowed to make some sales direct to consumers from their farms without a retail license, they aren’t exempt from any other safety regulations.