New NC audit raises questions about milk safety

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A milk audit suggests the NC Department of Agriculture is too lenient in its inspections.

Nearly a billion pounds of milk is produced and distributed in North Carolina each year. Now, some consumers are questioning if what they're getting is in fact Grade "A."

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The State Auditor says in a new report that the Department of Agriculture exposes the public to potential health risks and was far too lenient in inspections.

The report shows the department conducted more than 5,000 inspections during the past three years and only once took inspection action.

"It is surprising, it shouldn't be a situation where this is happening," said Raleigh mom Katrina Smith, who has three daughters and gives them milk daily. "I want to make sure that everything that they consume and they eat is up to code," she said.

The department is adamant that there are no imminent health hazards.

"We're very proud of the Grade "A" program we have in this state. We believe our Grade "A" dairies do a great job. They produce a safe product," said assistant commissioner Joe Reardon. "In no case in this state do we feel that any product that has ever been produced, pasteurized, packed, held, or distributed in this state has ever presented a health risk."

The Department of Agriculture is in a unique position. It regulates dairy permits while also marketing the Ag industry as a whole.

According to the report, one inspector explains, "we don't want to run (dairy farms) out of business and "they (are) losing money."

Reardon says there's no conflict of interest.

"Absolutely not. We take complete exception to that," he said.

The department says it will be reviewing the documents to see what improvements can be made.

Consumers, like Smith, hope there's stricter oversight.

"When it comes to purchasing food that's naturally grown in the state that you're in, I would expected you to do everything on your end properly before I had to buy it in the supermarket," said Smith.

There are 207 dairy farms across the state. ABC11 is told inspectors visit each of these farms four times a year and collect samples to test.
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healthhealthagricultureconsumer concernsnorth carolina newsRaleigh
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