Kelli Estrella is either a hero of the local-food movement or a scofflaw “unable to keep dangerous bacteria out of her products,” said William Neuman in The New York Times. With the milk from her 36 cows and 40 goats, Estrella makes “tasty artisan cheeses” on her Washington state farm and sells them at farmers’ markets. Her customers include “fancy restaurants in Manhattan and Los Angeles.” But now, Estrella says, the heavy hand of government threatens to spoil her success. U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspectors have turned up listeria, “a sometimes deadly bacteria,” in some of her cheeses and asked her to recall all her products. “In a rare act of defiance,” Estrella refused, prompting the FDA to obtain a court order that shut down her business, at least temporarily.
The dispute has become a cause célèbre in foodie circles, and even some members of Congress have come to Estrella’s aid. The FDA says it merely wants to keep the U.S. food supply safe, but Estrella says bigger issues are involved. “To me the subject of this whole thing isn’t really about listeria,” she told The Seattle Times. “It’s about liberty and freedoms.” Estrella has appealed the court order, and hopes to be back in business soon.