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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Another Raw Milk Dairy E. coli Outbreak in Washington and a bad month for Raw Milk

Over Thanksgiving week, Cozy Vale Creamery’s raw milk products were recalled because they were linked to three E. coli O157:H7 illnesses and after environmental swabbing at the facility discovered that locations in the milking parlor and processing areas were contaminated with the E. coli O157:H7 bacteria.  At least two of those cases were children who developed Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome.  Cozy Vale Creamery’s whole and skim milk and cream were distributed through seven retail outlets in Pierce, Thurston and King counties. The products were sold retail at the farm store and at Marlene’s Market in Tacoma, two Olympia Food Co-Op locations in Olympia, Olympia Local Foods in Tumwater, Yelm Co-op in Yelm, Mt. Community Co-op in Eatonville and Marlene’s Market in Federal Way.

In November 2011, the California State Veterinarian placed raw milk products from Organic Pastures dairy in Fresno, California under a quarantine order.  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.  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.

Raw Milk Outbreaks have occurred in the State of Washington before.  In November 2005, at least 18 people were sickened in an outbreak linked to the consumption of raw milk from Dee Creek Farm, located near Woodland, Washington.  The farm was not licensed to sell raw milk, and during its investigation into the outbreak, the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) noted several milk processing violations that would have been addressed during the licensing process had Dee Creek applied for the license.   In addition, sample testing confirmed the presence of E. coli O157:H7 in two milk samples provided by Dee Creek Farm and in five environmental samples taken from Dee Creek Farm milk-barn areas by investigators.  In the Dee Creek outbreak, five Clark County, Washington, children were hospitalized, with two developing Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome and requiring critical care and life support for kidney failure as a result of their E. coli infections.

In September 2006, two young children were infected by E. coli O157:H7 as a result of consuming raw goat’s milk produced and sold by Grace Harbor Farm.  Multiple environmental specimens collected at the farm during the course of the outbreak investigation tested positive for the same strain of E. coli O157:H7 that infected the two young children.

In November 2009, at least three people were infected by raw milk produced and sold at Dungeness Valley Creamery in Sequim, Washington.  In its investigation into the outbreak, the Washington State Department of Agriculture did not isolate E. coli bacteria in the dairy’s milk, but the WSDA did locate E. coli at the dairy.

I have been keeping close track of both raw and pasteurized milk and cheese outbreaks in the last two years – You can download it here: Outbreaks, Illnesses and Recalls Linked to Raw (Unpasteurized) and Pasteurized Dairy Products, United States January 2010 – November 2011.

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For more information about raw milk outbreaks, see Real Raw Milk Facts.

  • My Heart aches for anyone who has to face the horror of an extremely I’ll child. I pray for a speedy recovery for all sickened by this outbreak.

  • Nicole

    3 people sick = outbreak?
    I feel for these families, but these numbers are incredibly tiny to use words like “outbreak”.