FTCLDF 2008 YEAR IN REVIEW
CALIFORNIA - AB1735
In October 2007 AB1735 was signed into law. Among other requirements, the bill mandated that milk produced by the state’s licensed raw milk dairies (Organic Pastures and Claravale) have a coliform count of 10 or less at the final container when tested. If a dairy’s milk fails three out of five consecutive tests, the dairy’s sales of raw milk are suspended.
In December 2007 FTCLDF General Counsel Gary Cox filed a lawsuit against the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) in San Benito Superior Court to permanently enjoin the agency from enforcing the coliform standard. Once the standard went into effect on January 1, 2008, both dairies had numerous tests where their milk had a coliform count higher than the legal limit; so, on March 6 Gary followed up on the initial lawsuit by filing for a temporary restraining order (TRO) and a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of the coliform standard.
On March 19, San Benito Superior Court Judge Harry T. Tobias granted the TRO in favor of the dairies, prohibiting CDFA from enforcing the coliform standard. Even though the judge later reversed his position and denied the dairies a preliminary injunction in a subsequent hearing on May 23, the successful suit for the TRO helped jumpstart the legislative process.
On April 15 the California Senate Agriculture Committee and the Select Committee on Foodborne Illness held a public hearing in Sacramento on Raw Milk Safety. The hearing led to the commission of a Blue Ribbon panel to draft legislation that would supplant AB1735. On June 5 State Senator Dean Flores introduced SB201, a bill that eliminated the coliform requirement imposed by AB1735. SB201 passed in the General Assembly 63-0 and in the Senate 31-4 before Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed SB201 on September 30, ignoring the widespread support for the bill.
Unless a bill eliminating or modifying the coliform requirement is passed in the next legislative session which starts in January, the trial to permanently enjoin CDFA from enforcing the coliform standard of AB1735 should take place sometime next summer.