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On July 1, 2021 the Hawaii Department of Health (HDH) embargoed raw goat milk and other raw dairy products in nearly 20 pet food stores in the Honolulu area; HDH also issued cease-and-desist orders to the stores that threatened penalties of up to $10,000 for each violation of the order. The order stated that Hawaii law only allows the sale of Grade A pasteurized milk and milk products to the final consumer; the department provided zero evidence that any of the stores’ customers were consuming the milk and other dairy products themselves. HDH gave the retailers the option of either destroying the embargoed product or returning it to distributors.
There is no statute or regulation that expressly prohibits the sale of raw pet dairy products in Hawaii; the law HDH referenced in its order governs only raw milk for human consumption.
In a press release about the enforcement action, a department official claimed, “The goat milk is being advertised as ‘pet food’ but the sale of any form of raw fluid milk is a risk to public health because it is easily diverted for human consumption.” Again, HDH provided no evidence that this was happening.
The department’s actions have caused law-abiding pet food store owners—and national pet food manufacturers selling to those stores—a substantial loss of revenue. The manufacturers produce products that are not only regulated by state agencies but by FDA as well. The manufacturers, some of the affected stores, and pet owners were all looking at ways to challenge HDH’s action, an action that arguably exceeded its legal authority.