A 76-year-old Fallbrook woman was charged with a misdemeanor on August 28 after illegally selling unpasteurized dairy products she made from the milk produced by her pet goat.
Alicia Santacroce had been milking her goats and making cheese products her entire life and sold the excess she couldn’t use.
“People really enjoy it,” she said. “I use garlic and chives from my garden mixed in with it.”
In late August, Santacroce left a notice at a local market stating she was selling raw milk goat cheese. A man responded, buying three packs of her homemade product.
Within a few hours, Santacroce was visited by a police office and several agents from the Department of Food and Agriculture and the San Diego County Environment Food and Housing office.
Santacroce admitted to the agents that she had sold the cheese and was informed that selling it and other dairy products from her home was illegal because it was not made in a certified kitchen or dairy, which meant her products were not pasteurized.
A citation notice for selling illegal dairy products was presented to Santacroce and she was ordered to cease and desist selling cheese and milk.
Santacroce was also assigned a court date at which time she could make a plea before a judge.
On October 7, Santacroce pleaded no contest to the charge and was found guilty of the misdemeanor of selling unlawful dairy products in unsanitary conditions of processing.
She then had to pay $375 in court processing fees and serve 20 hours of community service in order to work off her $200 fine. She will also be on probation for the next year.
“Everyone I have told this story to thought that it was ridiculous,” Santacroce said. “I would sell my cheese when I lived in Minnesota and they couldn’t care less.”
Santacroce said she was always careful when selling her milk and used a stainless steel bucket to milk her goats. She explained that she carefully strained the milk for hair and particles before placing it into glass bottles.
When making cheese, Santacroce used a stainless steel pot to heat the milk after it was strained and used a glass bowl to mix the ingredients before placing it into a cheese press to drain excess moisture. When the cheese was finished, she would then quarter and wrap the cheese with plastic wrap and place it into the refrigerator.
According to Steve Lyle of the Department of Food and Agriculture, Santacroce was charged because dairy products that are not from a licensed facility, routinely inspected by the state, are not considered pasteurized.
Raw, unpasteurized milk and products made from it are susceptible to the growth of harmful bacteria that can cause severe illness and, in some cases, death.
While these dairy products are not able to be sold for consumption, they can be used for personal use.
According to a fact sheet from the California Department of Food and Agriculture, Listeria and Salmonella are the most common bacteria found in cheese made by unlicensed manufacturers. They can cause:
• Severe illness, especially among infants, the elderly and those with impaired immune systems
• Illness to unborn babies
• Infection, which may spread to the blood stream unless antibiotic treatment is administered promptly
• Diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps occurring 12 to 72 hours after infection and usually lasting four to seven days
Santacroce is preparing to sell all of her goats and has listed them for sale on Craigslist.org. Until she sells them, she is still milking her goats, making cheese for herself and storing it in the freezer.
“It's too much for me to use alone and I don't want to just pour it out,” she said. “I just don't want someone else to have to go through what I did. Ignorance is not an excuse.”
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