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New state audit cites health concerns over milk that wasn’t properly inspected

In a report released Wednesday, the Office of the State Auditor said the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which is tasked with ensuring companies that produce milk comply with standards to maintain Grade A classification, has been too lenient in its inspections.
In a report released Wednesday, the Office of the State Auditor said the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which is tasked with ensuring companies that produce milk comply with standards to maintain Grade A classification, has been too lenient in its inspections. AP

A new state audit might make North Carolina residents a little cautious about the milk in their fridge. The State Auditor’s office has determined that the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services had put the public’s health at risk because it inadequately enforced rules governing the state’s Grade A milk.

In a report released Wednesday, the auditor said the agriculture agency, which is tasked with ensuring companies that produce milk comply with standards to maintain Grade A classification, has been too lenient in its inspections.

The report said that between 2012 and 2015, the agriculture department failed to prevent continued violations of the federally enforced Pasteurized Milk Ordinance. For instance, it failed 50 times to suspend milk permits or take other action when finding a company had violated the same requirements of the ordinance in multiple inspections, according to the report.

Another 474 times an inspector found and commented on a violation, and then made the same comments in a subsequent inspection without marking down the violation was repeated, the report stated.

The State Auditor’s office said the department’s leniency in inspecting entities put the public’s health at risk during that time.

Some examples of health violations included 155 instances where milking barns, stables and parlors weren’t properly cleaned. There were also 114 cases where a milkhouse was deficient in rodent and insect control, according to the report.

The department disagreed with the State Auditor’s findings.

The department said it routinely collects samples of milk and milk products from producers, and during the period covered by the audit, it collected more than 3,600 samples. Of those samples, the department said there was only one occasion of a plant having a violation because its milk samples contained high levels of coliform bacteria. That plant’s milk permit was immediately suspended, the department said in the report.

The State Auditor’s office stood by its findings, and said issues raised by the agriculture department don’t focus on problems raised about the inspection program.

LaVendrick Smith; 704-358-5101; @LaVendrickS

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