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Private Minneapolis Food Club Offering Direct-from-Farm Fresh Food Shut Down by Health Department

Minneapolis Food Club Shut Down by Health Department
Minneapolis Food Club Shut Down by Health Department

Image from ABC 5 KSTP.com [1]

by Brian Shilhavy
Editor, Health Impact News

A local private buying club in Minneapolis, known as Uptown Locavore, was raided and shut down by the Health Department earlier this month (May, 2018).

Even though there were apparently no complaints, and no one reporting any illness due to the food being sold in this private market, the city of Minneapolis decided to shut them down, stating that they did not have proper retail licenses, and that some of their food was “dangerous,” because they were selling fresh raw milk and meat that had not been USDA inspected, according to ABC 5 KSTP [1].

Will Winter, the owner of the market, links members of his buyer’s club with up to 50 different farmers.

He disagrees that the club was operating illegally without licenses, because it is not a retail store, but a private club.

The reason this is legal is it’s a private transaction between consenting adults… Never a complaint, never made anyone sick, never had any questions about our food.


Minnesota’s History of Attacking Private Food Clubs

Food rights activist and journalist David Gumpert [2] sees a similar pattern in Minnesota with its history of attacking private food clubs and working together with the FDA.

Eight years ago, a private Minneapolis food market known as Traditional Foods was shut down by local public health officials for not being properly licensed. A few days ago, a private market meant to replace Traditional Foods was shut down in much the same manner, just days after it proudly opened in spanking new quarters.

Eight years ago, the owners of Traditional Foods claimed they would fight the food police and prevail. So it is today, as Will Winter, the owner, has expressed confidence that lawyers from Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund will find a way to allow the new market, known as Uptown Locavore, to reopen. 

If you examine history, though, the odds aren’t great for the new market.  Traditional Foods never reopened at its old location after the owner was jerked around [3] for many months by evasive local bureaucrats. Mind you, neither market was involved in selling raw milk, but rather focused on fresh meats and fish, along with other delicacies like quail eggs.

History has shown that the only way to make it as a private market in Minnesota is to defy the officials, as Alvin Schlangen did after Traditional Foods was shuttered. He continued to provide raw milk and farm-slaughtered meats to members of his food club, even after his delivery van was raided and food confiscated.  His defiance led to heavy-duty pressure by the powers that be, including criminal charges and a trial. In the end, he prevailed, and continues in business today. (Source [2].)

Gumpert reports [2] on Will Winter’s statement to supporters and members of the food club:

The policy at these agencies is clearly against small enterprise. Even without complaints we are GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT! They want to shut down anything except the big box stores that, in this case, support Big Ag. They are bullies (in general) and seem to want to feel BIG by crushing the little man. They are riding the clock anyway, so they can do this forever, knowing that eventually they can deplete our tiny resources, grind us down, and eventually destroy us. Instead of using their resources to pursue real criminals and real crime, they waste their day trying to destroy people they don’t understand, and then seem to hate.

This means, to them, that we will now need to ‘play hardball’ with the city. We have had ZERO COMPLAINTS and there are absolutely no health problems from the operation of our private buying club. The “food police” has absolutely no jurisdiction over PRIVATE TRANSACTIONS. If I sold you a used car, that is between me and you, it doesn’t make me a car dealer nor do I need a license to do it. It is PRIVATE, not public. The city officials do not understand what is our protected American right to make our own choices in private dealings. I am absolutely fine with public stores, shops and services being licensed. That has value. But, this unjustified persecution of people doing the right thing makes me very unhappy to be American.

As we have reported many times over the years here at Health Impact News, direct-from-farm-to-consumer sales is a direct threat to the industrial agricultural industry, especially with the sale of farm fresh raw milk [4]. Corporate dairy brokers depend upon cheap, subsidized fluid milk to contribute to their milk pools to produce commercial dairy products.

As soon as farmers opt out of the corporate system and sell their high-end products directly to consumers for a larger profit, they are seen as a threat, and government regulatory agencies will take action to stop the competition.

Gumpert wrote how the FDA, using taxpayer funds, works with local agencies in states like Minnesota to go after private buying clubs:

When writing my book about food rights (“Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights”) a few years back, I investigated closely the FDA’s relationship with Minnesota food safety officials. Here is some of what I discovered, from the book: “The Minnesota health and agriculture agencies are known to be close to the FDA. A little over a year after the MDA’s crackdown (on the Traditional Foods private market in 2010), it issued a press release saying it had received a one million dollar grant from the FDA ‘to strengthen its capacity to respond to food-borne outbreaks and other food safety events.’ A year later, the MDA was awarded six hundred thousand dollars in FDA grants ‘to enhance the state’s food safety capabilities.’

In its report to Congress covering 2011 activities in various states, the FDA said it had seventy-four employees in Minnesota, along with contracts and grants with the MDA. The report alluded to a contract with the MDA to ‘conduct food safety inspections’ as well as a grant that was for a ‘Food Safety Task Force to coordinate and address food safety and defense issues among regulated industry and regulators within the state.’

The FDA’s ties to Minnesota agencies are representative of a national campaign to strengthen the relationship between states and the FDA. In its messages to Congress and the public, the FDA communicates the sense that it cooperates closely with state public health and agriculture agencies. It even has a Division of Federal-State Relations, and in a Year in Review report recapping its activities, its director, Joseph Reardon, stated that the FDA handed out to states more than forty-one million dollars in grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements in 2010. Moreover, the FDA ‘commissioned 1,346 State and Local officials to assist FDA in traditional program areas such as foods and animal feeds.’ According to Reardon, ‘the FDA and the States can equally benefit from the goal of a national food safety system.’ (Source [2].)