Compliace with modern food safety regulations challenging for traditional Amish deli

Maine’s NPR News Source reports that an Amish deli in Unity that recently attracted national attention for both its meats and its owner’s high profile background as a chef may soon close. Matthew Secich, who runs Charcuterie, told the Bangor Daily News this week that food safety regulations are too overwhelming.

UNITY,  ME-  January 13: Matt Secich hangs sausages on a bar to dry at his Charcuterie shop in Unity on Wednesday, January 13, 2016. (Photo by David Leaming/Staff Photographer)

UNITY, ME- January 13: Matt Secich hangs sausages on a bar to dry at his Charcuterie shop in Unity on Wednesday, January 13, 2016. (Photo by David Leaming/Staff Photographer)

The handmade meats that Matthew Secich makes at Charcuterie struck a chord with customers when he opened late last year…and so did his personal story. He told MPBN in January about his background working at renowned restaurants like Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago.

“…. it was a wild tale of chasing the — I guess you could call it the four-star holy grail of the cuisine world and traveled all over the country, working at various great restaurants, working for great chefs, hoping to one day be great.”

Secich abandoned that career for a simpler life, ultimately adopting the Amish faith and settling in Unity with his family. But as business grew when he opened Charcuterie’s doors, so too did the associated paperwork. MPBN was unable to reach Secich for comment for this story. But earlier this week he told the Bangor Daily News that he’s considering closing his deli because of what he says are overly burdensome food safety regulations.

John Bott is a spokesman for the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry. He says one point of concern is the ice house Secich uses instead of a refrigerator. Amish shun electricity.

“You have to keep meats at a required 41-degree-Fahrenheit temperature, which is relatively easy to obtain using modern technology, but with an ice house, it could present some challenges.”

Bott says other states with Amish businesses don’t allow ice houses, though the Department is open to Secich keeping his if they can determine it’s safe. Another issue is a federal requirement to create what’s called a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point plan. It’s an operating plan that lays out strict protocols to minimize food safety hazards. And to comply, it takes mountains of paperwork, says Andre Bonneau of the Sausage Kitchen in Lisbon Falls.


Amish smugglers’ raw milk run

In January, The Daily rode along on a raw milk smuggling run. Excerpts below.

Wearing a black-brimmed country hat, suspenders and an Amish beard, "Samuel" unloaded his contraband from an unmarked white truck on a busy block in Manhattan (New York, not Kansas).

He was at the tail end of a long smuggling run that had begun before dawn at his Pennsylvania farm. As he wearily stacked brown cardboard boxes on the sidewalk, a few upscale clients in the Chelsea neighborhood lurked nearby, eyeing the new shipment hungrily.??Clearly, they couldn’t wait to get a taste.??

Samuel is part of a shadowy community of outlaw Amish and Mennonite dairy farmers who risk fines, loss of equipment and product, and even imprisonment to transport raw milk across state lines and satisfy a burgeoning appetite for illegal raw milk in places like New York.

Samuel has more than 140 customers waiting for him, ready to pay $6 a gallon. ??Samuel’s smuggling run started in Pennsylvania’s Amish country, where his family farm is located. As Amish doctrine prohibits him from operating an automobile, he paid a non-Amish person to drive. ??The final destination was an unmarked converted factory on the eastern edge of Chelsea.

Churning out the product??In mid-January, I paid a visit to Amish country to explore the roots of the raw milk supply chain. The dairy farm I visited was run by Isaac, an Amish raw milk black-marketer who, like Samuel, agreed to discuss his operation on the condition that his identity was concealed.??

Isaac, wearing traditional Amish clothing and an Amish beard, nodded in agreement. ??Maurer dismissed the FDA’s findings on raw milk, saying he’s never heard of anyone getting more than a bellyache from the stuff. ??For Isaac, the issues are cultural. When it comes to dairy farming, becoming a smuggler was the only way to maintain a pure, Amish way of life.“