Crime & Justice

3 face charges for producing, selling raw goat milk in Venice

David Barker of Eagle Rock was among the raw dairy supporters outside the courthouse in downtown Los Angeles.
David Barker of Eagle Rock was among the raw dairy supporters outside the courthouse in downtown Los Angeles.
Brian Watt/KPCC

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Raids yesterday resulted in the arrests of three people on charges of running an illegal farm and selling its unpasteurized goat milk, cheese and other products without a license. Sharon Palmer, who runs Healthy Family Farms in Santa Paula, her employee Eugenia Bloch and James Stewart who runs Rawesome Foods in Venice face multiple charges.

Across from the Criminal Courts building in downtown Los Angeles, protesters gathered to await results of Stewart's arraignment. One of those protesters was raw food supporter David Barker, who lives in Eagle Rock.

"I'm here because I feel like this is a serious civil rights issues, around freedom of choice, about what we eat, what we feed our children, and our ability to have private contracts with people," Barker says. "To be able to make a private contract, to be able to join a private buying club and be free from regulation that's intended for public facilities."

Barker's been consuming raw milk for two years and says that it's safe. "Most recent data that came out in June from the FDA itself shows that raw milk consumers are about, the number, and that's hard to believe, about 30,000 times more likely to get sick from other foods than raw dairy."

Video of the Rawesome raid taken by a raw food supporter (includes some adult language):

Stewart, 64, is charged with 13 counts, including conspiracy to commit a crime, processing milk without pasteurization, unlicensed business, food facility without a permit, improperly labeled food and removal of closure notice.

Prosecutors allege that Rawesome has been in operation for more than six years, but has never had any type of business permit or license.

Santa Paula-based Healthy Family Farms and its owner, Sharon Ann Palmer, 51, are charged with nine counts, including conspiracy to commit a crime and unlicensed business.

One of Palmer's employees, Bloch, is charged with three counts of conspiracy to commit a crime and is scheduled to be arraigned today. An arraignment date for Palmer has not yet been set.

Undercover investigators claim they bought unpasteurized goat milk, cheese, yogurt and kefir from Healthy Family Farms stands at farmers' markets and at Rawesome during the yearlong investigation, according to the district attorney's office. It is legal to manufacture and sell unpasteurized dairy products in California, but not without licenses and permits. These include regular veterinary inspections of the animals and obeying equipment and sanitation requirements, officials said.