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Dee Creek Farm owners appeal fine related to E. coli outbreak

18.jun.06

Sources

18-Jun-2006

Daily News (WA) (http://www.tdn.com/articles/2006/06/18/area_news/news06.txt)

Owners of a Woodland dairy that caused an E. coli outbreak last winter are, according to this story, appealing an $8,000 state fine, still asserting they didn't need a license for their raw milk program.

The state Department of Agriculture fined Dee Creek Farm owners Anita and Michael Puckett in March for violating milk production and distribution laws.

According to the state, the Pucketts did not have a required license and also did not test their cows for tuberculosis or brucellosis. Also, they brought a cow from Oregon without required veterinary tests.

The state investigated the dairy after E. coli -infected milk sickened 18 people in December. Five children were hospitalized, including two who were on life-support before recovering.

Raw, or unpasteurized, milk can be sold legally in Washington, but only with a state license and regular inspections. According to state officials, the Pucketts' farm had numerous health and hygiene violations and could not have come close to passing an inspection.

The Pucketts, though, claim their practice of selling "shares" of their cows and then giving the "co-owners" milk isn't technically selling. The state didn't agree, notifying the Pucketts in August that they were breaking the law because any exchange of money for milk constitutes a sale.

Since then the Legislature has revamped laws to eliminate any doubt that cow share programs require a license. The new law also gives state investigators greater access to suspected violators; state officials were only able to enter the Pucketts' farm after people fell ill. Oregon officials also are re-examining their laws in light of the Dee Creek outbreak. But the Pucketts, and their daughter and son-in-law Summer and Michael Steenbarger, continue to insist they were not selling milk, and thus not subject to license and testing requirements.