BELLWOOD - Members of the state Department of Agriculture and state police paid a visit to an Antis Township farmer Thursday because the department claims he is in violation of several laws.
Charlie Benedetto said earlier this month after a previous visit from department officials - who he "threw" off his property - that he has been making cheese, raviolis, and other Italian specialties on his Antis Township farm for nearly 50 years.
"Apparently he does not have a proper pasteurizing machine and is not testing raw milk as required. He is not licensed to produce ricotta cheese from raw milk. This has been going on for some time. He never got inspected to produce ravioli from raw milk products," department spokeswoman Samantha Krepps said after that visit.
Benedetto said the officials threatened to "shut him down."
This time, ag department officials came with state police armed with a search warrant.
"We did not confiscate anything, but we purchased some cheese ravioli, spaghetti and two cheeses that he made. We are testing these because he has never been inspected and doesn't have a permit to make cheeses from raw milk products. He gets his milk from a source but won't tell us the source. He doesn't have the proper pasteurization and does not have a license to sell food," Krepps said.
Benedetto disagrees with the department's claims.
"They said I don't have a license. I had a license for 47 years, and they took it away last year. They say I don't pasteurize. They don't know what pasteurization is. I cook it for five hours. That is better than pasteurization," Benedetto said.
Benedetto also said he gets his milk from cows at a farm in Warriors Mark.
"I told them that," he said.
The products will be tested before any action is taken.
"We are trying to make sure Pennsylvanians are safe. This is all for public safety. He refuses to comply with the law. He needs to get the proper permits, be inspected and get a license to sell food," Krepps said.
Krepps said she couldn't speculate on the outcome but Benedetto will be able to keep doing what he is doing until the department gets results of the tests.
Benedetto said he doesn't know what will happen.
"They have the power to take everything I've got and destroy me. This is as stupid as it can get. They say you do as I say or else," Benedetto said. "We have about 95 years in this together [his mother made cheese for more than 40 years]. I don't remember anyone getting sick."
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.