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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Pasteurized Milk Sickens Five with Yersinia enterocolitica

Screen Shot 2011-07-31 at 2.03.02 PM.pngThe Pennsylvania departments of Health and Agriculture and the Allegheny County Health Department are advising the public of the possible health risks associated with products, specifically glass-bottled milk, from Brunton Dairy in Aliquippa, Beaver County.

Since June 15, five individuals – three young children and two older adults – developed diarrhea and other symptoms caused by bacteria called Yersinia enterocolitica. All five people drank and became ill from pasteurized milk in glass bottles from the same local dairy.

“Until we can complete our investigation, we are recommending, in the interest of public health, that any glass-bottled milk from the dairy at homes or businesses be discarded or returned to the dairy, and that residents take precaution with other dairy products from Brunton Dairy,” said Secretary of Health Dr. Eli Avila.

The departments are working together to investigate gastrointestinal infections in Beaver and Allegheny counties. Illness onsets range from June 15 through July 17. Other persons in the same households also experienced a similar illness, but the cause of their illness was not confirmed.

Brunton Dairy is certified by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to pasteurize milk at the farm. The dairy produces buttermilk, regular, fat-free, reduced-fat, cream, and chocolate- and strawberry-flavored milk, as well as ice cream. The dairy makes home delivery to households in Western Pennsylvania and sells milk and ice cream at retail establishments. The public may also buy products on the farm, and the milk can be purchased for use by restaurants.

Yersinia enterocolitica bacteria causes diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting and can sometimes enter the bloodstream and affect other organs. Onset of illness usually occurs four to six days after exposure, but can be as short as one day or as long as two weeks. The bacteria can cause severe infections and the illness can mimic appendicitis and sometimes leads to unnecessary surgery.

According to News Reports, Herb Brunton, a partner in the family business, said the dairy is cooperating with the health department during the investigation.

“We started bottling milk in 1964, and this is the first time anything like this has ever happened,” Brunton said. “Our first goal is the safety of our customers.”

Hmm, when was the last time you heard a statement like that when raw milk was recalled?  If I am not mistaken, you will have a hard time finding a similar quote.  However, you will have no trouble finding – “the outbreak did not happen,”  “the illnesses were caused by spinach,”  “the illnesses were caused by the doctors,”  “the illnesses were caused by the victims,”  “the lawyer made it up,” and the old favorite, “it is a conspiracy between public health and big ag.”

See updated chart of raw and pasteurized milk and cheese outbreak chart.

  • Minkpuppy

    Sounds like it may have been a problem with the equipment or simple human error when they started up the pasteurizer.
    Kudos to the dairy for taking responsibility and stepping up to correct the problem. Hopefully, all it will take is some repairs and they’ll be back in business.

  • Doc Mudd

    “Our first goal is the safety of our customers.”
    How refreshing! That’s the sort of genuine concern that sees a food business through more than half a century of safely serving satisfied customers. Truly a lesson to be learned by greedy fly-by-night raw milkies, if such learning is possible.
    Should be amusing to watch the raw milk whackadoodles spin this outbreak, from an examplary reminder of why prudent food safety precautions are vitally important for all commercial food production, into some contorted bogus argument for not bothering to pasteurize at all.
    Yersinia enterocolitica has the capacity to grow at common refrigeration temperatures and has occasionally been encountered as a pathogen in milk and dairy products. Them’s the simple facts of life and reminder enough to exercise every precaution when producing food for sale to the public. Refrigeration won’t stop yersinia, I doubt any line of dreamy talk from raw milkies will dissuade it, but we shall hear some fine, impassioned oratory in the effort, I am sure.

  • dyouwyouk

    I was okay with the informational article until I got to the last paragraph–then I felt sick for the raw milk folks. I’m sure that all raw milk producers would say the same thing– “Our first goal is the safety of our customers.” Who wouldn’t say that? No one likes to get sick or make anyone else sick. Finally, we do not live in a perfect world. If we did, you or Doc Mudd wouldn’t have anything to talk about or a job for that matter. Tone the jabs down a little, and let’s face real life–mistakes will happen!

  • Doc Mudd

    duuuyuk, to support your belief please whip together a compendium of quotes from raw milkies naming “the safety of our customers” as their principal goal. You’re welcome to use previous on-the-record statements from raw milk purveyors who haven’t yet poisoned anyone (that we know of), but do not confuse “safety” of consumers with raw milkie woo or magical ‘health giving’ properties (not the same thing, not even remotely).
    I think you will find raw milkies to be as silent on their genuine concern for consumer safety as they are on their systematic pursuit of disproportionate pecuniary gain – they are rightly embarrassed by their behavior in both instances. The quiet is conspicuous in the context of an otherwise boisterous snakeoil sales pitch.
    Mistakes happen, to be sure. Brunton Dairy is the latest example. Mistakes need to be corrected and prevented from recurring.
    Stupid crap happens, too. Like misrepresenting unpasteurized milk as safe and magically curative in order to sell more of it. When that catches up with anyone it certainly is not a mistake — only a calculated risk of an unsafe and unfortunate outcome for gullible consumers. That’s a pretty callous way for anyone to make their living, however lucrative and resplendent…make no mistake about that.

  • Justice Plus

    …”Hmm, when was the last time you heard a statement like that when raw milk was recalled? If I am not mistaken, you will have a hard time finding a similar quote….”
    Well, here is one for starters Bill.
    “…Please understand that we found this precisely because we go over and beyond the state requirement for pathogen testing of raw milk. (actually 12 x more frequent than the requirement) The only way we know anything about it at all is because of our voluntarily testing protocol… We do this extra testing for your peace of mind, the safety of your families and out of abundance of caution. It would be easier, cheaper and less stressful to simply not know! If we would only be testing at the state required minimum, we would have never found this problem and you and we would be none the wiser.
    “Also, as far as I know, we are the only PA dairy, raw or pasteurized, which tests for pathogens in the final retail-ready container at this frequency. (Pasteurized milk is actually never required to be tested for pathogens.) Some experts in the microbiology world have cautioned us that testing with this level of intensity is not a wise business move because, in their words, ‘If you look that hard and test that frequently, you will be sure to have a positive test sometime. Then your farm and food will have bad press while your competition, which tests infrequently or never, will look good!’
    “Well, of course we recognize and understand the logic and truth of that statement, but there is an ethical side to the equation which always grounds us and brings us back to our true north. And that is this: When it comes to your family’s safety, it’s not the government’s standards that we are trying to live up to… it’s yours. We have faith that you will appreciate our caution, honesty, transparency and forthrightness. Maybe it’s not best for business but if it’s best for you… it’s good enough for us.”
    Bill, I find this especially interesting since you were the first commenter after this story and that was with “Kudos” for Edwin Shank of The Family Cow. This was only January of this year so I cannot imagine that your memory is so poor. It seems more like it is selective.
    You owe the nations raw milk farmers an apology Mr. Marler. I understand that the attitude of some raw milk farmers and proponents rankles you, but it is unethical and crass to paint them all with the same brush.

  • Bill,
    Thank you for breaking this news and carrying the news of this pasteurized milk incident.
    Whether we produce raw milk or pasteurized milk, as dairymen, our first priority is health and safety.
    Clearly, No food is perfect….No process is perfect….not even pasteurized milk or raw milk.
    However, the reason that raw milk has become celebrated and consumed by so many more Americans, is because consumers have discovered that raw milk builds immune systems like no other food on earth. Pasteurized milk is listed by the FDA and Mayoclinic as the most allergenic food in America. Raw milk stablizes MAST cells and actually does a great job of healing Asthma and preventing allergies. ( See PARSIFAL STUDY IN EU ).
    It is my hope that all of the ill people recover quickly from this incident and do everything they can do build up their immune systems to avoid illness in the future.
    The one thing that raw milk does is build that immune system,…..and protects against infection.
    This is promise not provided by pasteurized milk.
    Mark McAfee
    Founder OPDC
    Fresno CA

  • Doc Mudd

    “…consumers have discovered that raw milk builds immune systems like no other food on earth.”
    Where are the goddam FTC and FDA when you need them?
    In the meantime, deceptive advertising keeps Mark selling, by his own count, 2000 gallons of unpasteurized milk per day. At just $10 per gallon, that works out to the princely sum of $7.3 million per year profit to OPDC!!
    Now, that’s big business, “Big Ag”! So, yeah, I would expect Mark to be pretty excited over peddling dangerous raw milk to gullible consumers (whose immune systems will be unaffected, unless attacked by the bacteria swimming in the raw milk).
    It’s usually raw milkie conspiracy theorists who urge us to “follow the money” — why did they think we wouldn’t eventually notice how greed drives the sketchy raw milk “industry”?

  • Mark–
    Can you provide the citations from the peer-reviewed journals that show how raw milk actually “strengthens” the immune system? Should the public be a more than a little skeptical of you because you profit from the sale of raw milk or can we trust something just because you say it? Is it possible you are cherry-picking the research?

  • Sassylass

    One family got sick. all 5 people were in the same house. This milk is bought by hundreds if not thousands of people in the area. Myself Included!!! I have been drinking milk from this farm for over a month now and have not been sick in anyway. Im glad the Brunton Farm is investagating more for our safety. But I really dought that this family got sick from Brunton Farms Milk. If that was the case there would be many more people reporting they also got sick. This family could of got sick from something else and its being blamed on the Milk. Maybe they should research what else this family ate or drank! Before they ruin the reputation of this hard working family who has been in business many years and have never had a problem.

  • Mary McGonigle-Martin

    This is an inside joke, but they probably ate spinach.