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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Dairy Linked to Past Outbreaks and Recalls Sues FDA?

According to Mateusz Perkowski of the Capital Press, Organic Pastures Dairy Co. of Fresno, California is suing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for allegedly ignoring its request to change a federal ban on interstate raw milk shipments.   In late 2008, the company asked the FDA to create an exemption to the ban on interstate commerce in raw milk that would allow dairies to ship the product between states where it’s legally sold, such as California and Arizona.

The Capital Press noted that:

The dairy has had a contentious relationship with the FDA for several years. Its owner, Mark McAfee, was indicted on criminal charges of shipping raw milk across state lines in 2008, but those charges were later dropped after he agreed to discontinue the practice. The FDA won an injunction in 2010 permanently barring Organic Pastures from shipping raw milk in interstate commerce.

Organic Pastures Dairy has also had a “contentious relationship” with pathogenic bacteria in the past as well.  Here is a sample platter:

In September 2012, during routine state testing, the California Dept. of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) detected Campylobacter in raw cream samples from that date code. As a precautionary action, CDFA is also recalled Raw Whole Milk and Raw Skim Milk, even though they tested negative for Campylobacter.  There were no reported illnesses at that time.

In May 2012, Organic Pastures was the subject of a statewide recall and quarantine order announced by California State Veterinarian Dr. Annette Whiteford. The quarantine order came following the confirmed detection of Campylobacter bacteria in raw cream.  From January through April 30, 2012, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) reported that at least 10 people with Campylobacter infection were identified throughout California and reported consuming Organic Pastures raw milk prior to illness onset. Their median age is 11.5 years, with six under 18. The age range is nine months to 38 years. They are residents of Fresno, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Luis Obispo and Santa Clara counties. None of the patients have been hospitalized, and there have been no deaths.

Then there was this recent Organic Pastures E. coli outbreak:

In November 2011, a cluster of five young children with Escherichia coli (E. coli) O157:H7 infection with matching pulse-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) patterns was identified. Illness onsets were from August 25 to October 25, 2011. All five children reported drinking commercially available raw (unpasteurized) milk from a single dairy (Organic Pastures) and had no other common exposures. Statistical analysis of case­ patients’ exposures with a comparison group of E. coli O157:H7 patients with non­ cluster PFGE patterns indicated a strong association with raw milk. The epidemiological findings led to a quarantine and recall of all Organic Pastures products except cheese aged more than 60 days, and investigations by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Food and Drug Branch (FOB) and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). Environmental samples collected at Organic Pastures yielded E. coli O157:H7 isolates that had PFGE patterns indistinguishable from the patient isolates. Organic Pastures raw milk consumed by the case-patients was likely contaminated with this strain of E. coli O157:H7, resulting in their illnesses.

Organic Pastures has been involved in recalls and outbreaks in the past:

Organic Pastures products were recalled for pathogens in 2006, 2007 and 2008. It was tied to a 2007 outbreak of Campylobacter. Most notably, it was quarantined in 2006 after six children became ill with E. coli infections – two with hemolytic uremic syndrome.

2007: 50 strains of Campylobacter jejuni plus Campylobacter coli, Campylobacter fetus, Campylobacter hyointetinalis, and Campylobacter lari cultured from OPDC dairy cow feces after eight people were sickened.

2007: Listeria monocytogenes cultured from Organic Pastures Grade A raw cream.

2008: Campylobacter cultured from Organic Pastures Grade A raw cream.

Organic Pastures is perhaps not the right plaintiff to sue the FDA to expand raw milk sales?

For more information on the risks of raw milk, see Real Raw Milk Facts.