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

Anita and Michael Puckett, owners of Dee Creek Farm, the dairy that caused an E. coli outbreak last winter are appealing an $8,000 state fine, still asserting they didn’t need a license for their raw milk program.

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. In additon, the Pucketts never had the 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 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.

The state expects the hearing will be sometime this summer. The farm remains under a cease-and-desist order from the Cowlitz County Health Officer and also faces the threat of civil lawsuits by former customers.

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