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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Organic Pastures Raw Milk Dairy Linked to E. coli O157:H7 Illnesses – Again

OrganicPastures.jpgAccording to a California State Department of Health release, raw milk products produced by Organic Pastures of Fresno County are the subject of a statewide recall and quarantine order announced by California State Veterinarian Dr. Annette Whiteford.

Under the recall, all Organic Pastures raw dairy products with the exception of cheese aged a minimum of 60 days are to be pulled immediately from retail shelves and consumers are strongly urged to dispose of any products remaining in their refrigerators. Until further notice, Organic Pastures may not produce raw milk products for the retail market. The order also affects Organic Pastures raw butter, raw cream, raw colostrum, and a raw product labeled “Qephor.”

The quarantine order came following a notification from the California Department of Public Health of a cluster of five children who were infected, from August through October, with the same strain of E. coli O157:H7. These children are residents of Contra Costa, Kings, Sacramento, and San Diego counties. Interviews with the families indicate that the only common reported food exposure is unpasteurized (raw) milk from Organic Pastures dairy. Three of the five children were hospitalized with hemolytic uremic syndrome, a serious condition that may lead to kidney failure. There have been no deaths. Surveys indicate that only about three percent of the public report drinking raw milk in any given week so finding 100% of these children drank raw milk and the absence of other common foods or animal exposures indicates the Organic Pastures raw milk is the likely source of their infection.

While laboratory samples of Organic Pastures raw milk have not detected E. coli 0157:H7 contamination, epidemiologic data collected by the California Department of Public Health link the illnesses with Organic Pastures raw milk.

FYI – Organic Pastures Dairy E. coli O157:H7 Raw Milk Product Outbreak 2006

And – Organic Pastures – “Where There is Smoke, There is Fire.”

  • It was going to happen. Organic Pastures has not only been linked to E. coli before, but Campylobacter was found, if memory serves, in the fat layer of some of their milk. I think they brushed it off saying, it wasn’t in the milk.
    I hope none of the kids who got sick suffer from anything permanent, and that their recovery is swift. I also hope that whoever or whatever the source was will be identified and will take responsibility for their negligence.

  • Dr Joseph Butterweck

    Mark McAfee keeps getting free advertising and the sales keep going up thanks to the regulators announcements.

    Who is paying for all this over regulations? It is time to go on the more important issues> The hamburger and the hemorrhagic E. coli stains are more important. Why do we pasteurize milk and not hamburger? The regulators have mixed standards!

  • Mikke

    Well, I’m not surprised either. Dismayed. Not surprised. And grateful yet again to have this online space of reason to come to, just to remind myself I’m not alone.

    According to the CA DOH release (I read it on ProMED), from 1998 to 2005 over a thousand people were sickened by unpasteurized milk. Over a hundred were hospitalized. There were two deaths. And those are just the ones that were tracked down and documented by the public health system. Who knows how many more there were? Who knows how many people were overall relatively immune, and their bodies now harbor these pathogens, which are actively mutating in their GI tract and being spread further, and causing more problems, all undocumented?

    Can you imagine the fury that would ensue if Monsanto, Cargill, Unilever, Darigold, or any other big food corporation committed such a crime against consumers? Can you imagine the reaction if it was found that they deliberately allowed /Listeria/, /E. coli/, /Campylobacter/, etc., to be in food, in the name of the undocumented belief that that food was better for you precisely because it didn’t undergo the food safety treatment that would ENSURE those microbes were destroyed?

    And they would deserve that fury, and litigation.

    But there is something in the organic/local/natural/whatever foodie mind that is coming right out of the hardwired religious parts of the brain. Bill, have you read any of the work on the neurology of religion, or evolutionary psychology? Researchers like Scott Atran, Pascal Boyer, and Todd Tremlin–and many others–have been trying to suss out how our brains are hardwired. It appears that certain tendencies of thought are wired right in there, and we have to make an effort via social and individual learning (later stages in human evolution) to get past that hardwiring.

    That hardwiring has expressed itself as religion at the social level, and people are most likely to have that thinking triggered as religion (secular or sacred)…and then stop, because that’s also a feature of the hardwiring. (It helps me survive, or so I think, so why ask questions, particularly when those around me give me disincentives for challenging that thinking, and punish me for dissent?)

    Bill, not to torque the discussion or give you more stuff to read…but Tremlin’s and Boyer’s work in particular on “agency attribution/detection” and “theory of mind” goes a long way to explaining a lot of the religious-scented thinking that some of us whiff around unpasteurized milk ideologues and fanatics.

    My e-mail address is real; drop me a line for some links if you want. I’m retired after many years on organic and sustainability activism and professional work (research and policy). Unpasteurized milk fundamentalism was one of the issues that put a wedge between me and those fields. But the bigger issue for me was that so many organic and sustainable foodies were appallingly ignorant of math and science.

  • Melissa Herzog- Cuan

    Karl,

    Unfortunately some of the children in this outbreak have H.U.S (Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome). While some fully recover, some are left with the possibility of kidney problems later in their lives. My daughter became ill in the 2006 Outbreak and still to this day is under the care of a Nephrologist and takes medication daily.

    I feel terrible for the children and their families because I know exactly what they are going through. Everyday when I give my daughter her pill, Im reminded of what she went through and I always hope and pray not to hear news of this happening again…but here we are, same EXACT thing 5 years later.!! I often wonder how many times this will happen before something is done. I hope it not after someone dies.

  • Victor Montes

    I drink unpasteurized milk. I became sick back in August. However, I do not think my sickness was caused by the milk. A few hours before I started feeling sick, I served myself organic lettuce mix, bought at a different health food store. I noticed that some of the leaves turned black and slimy. Instead of discarding the whole package, I picked out leaves that still looked good. After I recovered a few days later, I continued drinking my raw milk from the same bottle. It did not cause me to become sick again. Therefore I doubt the milk was the culprit. I am not a scientist. I just wonder if something similar might have happened in case of those children. Especially, since no bacteria has been found in any of the milk samples.

  • Jimbo

    Did no one catch that there was no E. coli O157:H7 found in the milk these kids drank, nor in any other Organic Pastures products? How could they have gotten E. coli from the milk, when there was no E. coli in the milk?
    If these kids were drinking raw milk, they were probably also eating raw, fresh from the farm vegetables and/or Organic meats. I’m curious if any of those products were tested. It sounds like the investigators heard “raw milk” and just issued the health notice.
    Epidemiologic data is weak anyway – its just data mining. If you want to find some correlation in the data, you will. We could argue that breathing air, or drinking water could have also been the source because I’d bet all five of the sick kids breathed air and drank water during the period from Aug to October.

  • Claire

    Mikke’s the companies you have named have ALL been sources of outbreaks.
    I’d also like to know who didn’t scroll down and see that none of the milk tested was infected with the E. Coli.
    How do you find 0% of the milk to be free of E Coli and yet blame it 100%? It isn’t even good math… looks like big ag has paid to destroy another small farm.

  • Mark Bernstein

    As usual Dr. Butterweck is full of opinions that are not backed by science and simply preposterous. As a major advocate to food irradiation he is pushing his own agenda as we have seen at educational shows for years. It’s time to leave this to qualified experts Dr. Butterweck.