Since 2005 Marler Clark, the Food Safety Law Firm, has had the honor of representing families who have been struck down by pathogens contained in raw milk. Since then Marler Clark has also been at the forefront of informing families of the real risk of consuming raw milk. As part of that effort we helped fund and build Real Raw Milk Facts, an online clearinghouse on the latest on raw milk consumption.
In December of 2005, an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak occurred among 18 Washington and Oregon residents who had consumed raw milk purchased from a cow-share program run by Dee Creek Farm in southwestern Washington State. Five Clark County, Washington children were hospitalized, two with hemolytic uremic syndrome, as a result of their E. coli infections. Sample testing conducted by the Washington State Department of Agriculture 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.
Prior to the December, 2005 E. coli outbreak, the Agriculture Department had learned for Dee Creek Farm’s cow-share program, and had ordered the farm to cease the dispensing, giving, trading, or selling of milk or to meet WSDA requirements for selling milk. During the investigation into the raw milk-related E. coli outbreak among Dee Creek Farm cow-share members, the WSDA noted several milk processing violations that would have been addressed during the licensing process had Dee Creek applied for a license to sell raw milk.
Marler Clark represented 14- and 11-year-old sisters who were hospitalized with E. coli O157:H7 infections, one with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), after drinking raw milk from Dee Creek Farm. The sisters’ combined medical expenses amounted to over $19,000. The firm also represented a one-year-old child who was hospitalized for three days with HUS. Her medical bills totaled over $8,000.
In September of 2006, at least 6 California residents became ill with E. coli O157:H7 infections after consuming raw milk or colostrum. The California Department of Health Services investigated the E. coli outbreak and learned that all patients, including one child hospitalized with HUS, had consumed raw milk or colostrum purchased from Organic Pastures in the days before becoming ill.
Marler Clark represented a 7-year-old boy who became ill with an E. coli infection and HUS after drinking raw milk produced by Organic Pastures. His HUS was remarkably severe, marked by prolonged renal failure, pancreatitis, and severe cardiac involvement. He required 18 days of kidney dialysis. He was hospitalized for nearly 2 months, and was life-flighted to different medical facilities twice. He is likely to develop severe kidney complications in the future and will likely require a transplant. His medical bills amounted to more than $550,000.
The law firm also represented a 12-year-old girl who developed HUS secondary to an E. coli infection contracted after drinking raw milk produced by Organic Pastures. She was hospitalized for over 2 weeks, receiving multiple kidney dialysis treatments, and is left with high blood pressure and at risk for future complications, which could lead to a kidney transplant. Her medical bills totaled nearly $300,000.
In September of 2006, an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak was traced to raw goat milk sold by Grace Harbor Farms in Washington State. At least two children became ill with E. coli O157:H7 infections after consuming raw goat milk produced by Grace Harbor Farms and sold at PCC Natural Markets. Multiple environmental specimens collected by the Washington State Department of Agriculture at Grace Harbor Farm tested positive for E. coli O157:H7. PCC Natural Markets ceased sales of raw milk in April of 2010.
Marler Clark represented a 9-year-old boy who became ill with an E. coli infection and HUS after consuming raw goat milk from Grace Harbor Farms. He was hospitalized for 10 days and incurred over $31,000 in medical bills.
In May of 2008, 4 people became ill during an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in Southwest Missouri that was traced to unpasteurized goat milk produced by Autumn Olive Farms and sold at the Herb Depot in Barry County. Three children developed HUS.
Marler Clark represented an infant who became ill with an E. coli infection and HUS after drinking raw goat milk produced by Autumn Olive Farms and sold at the Herb Depot. He suffered acute kidney failure and received 15 days of dialysis treatments before his kidneys recovered enough to function on their own. He is at risk for future complications, including end stage renal disease and kidney transplant. The child’s medical bills approached $90,000.
The law firm also represented a 9-year-old girl who became ill with an E. coli infection and HUS during the outbreak. She received kidney dialysis for 18 days after her kidneys failed. Her gallbladder was damaged during her bout with HUS, and was later removed. The child remains at risk for end stage renal disease and other complications in the future. Medical bills totaled over $180,000.
The firm represented another child, a toddler, who suffered an E. coli infection and was seen by multiple health care providers, but who avoided hospitalization, after drinking raw goat milk produced by Autumn Olive Farms. His medical expenses totaled over $1,500.
In June of 2008, an E. coli O157:NM outbreak among at least 14 people, including two children and one adult who had developed HUS, was associated with the consumption of raw milk purchased from a Whole Foods store in Connecticut. The raw milk was produced by Simsbury Town Farm, and was ultimately isolated from one milking animal at the farm. Whole Foods discontinued the sale of raw milk at its stores nationwide in April of 2010.
Marler Clark represented a 27-year-old single mother who became ill with an E. coli infection and HUS after consuming raw milk produced by Simsbury Town Farm Dairy and purchased at Whole Foods. She was hospitalized for over a month with total kidney failure, requiring multiple plasmapheresis treatments and blood transfusions. She remains at severe risk for long-term renal complications, including end stage renal disease (ESRD), dialysis, and kidney transplantation.
The law firm also represented a 7-year-old child who developed HUS subsequent to an E. coli infection caused by the consumption of Simsbury Town Farm Dairy raw milk purchased at Whole Foods. She suffered acute kidney failure, requiring blood transfusions, platelets and plasma. She spent a week in the hospital and remains at risk for high blood pressure and anemia.
In the summer of 2008, a Campylobacter jejuni outbreak in Del Norte County, California sickened 16 people. One of the 16 was an employee of the dairy who denied drinking unpasteurized milk but worked with cattle at the dairy. The California Department of Public Health was able to detect Campylobacter bacteria in leftover milk provided by a herd-share member, and ultimately concluded that the Campylobacter outbreak was caused by the consumption of raw milk sold by the Alexandre Eco Dairy Farm, which ran a “cow-leasing” program. After the Campylobacter outbreak, the farm closed.
Marler Clark represented a woman who consumed raw milk purchased from Alexandre Eco Dairy Farm and became ill with a Campylobacter infection. She quickly developed Guillain-Barre Syndrome, or GBS, a potentially fatal inflammatory disorder that is a known risk of Campylobacter infection. By the time she was hospitalized in mid-June, Mari was essentially paralyzed. On June 15, Mari was intubated and placed on mechanical ventilation. For weeks on end, Mari’s condition remained unchanged. She was heavily sedated, unable to move, and entirely dependent on mechanical ventilation for survival. In August, there were indications of slight improvement, and the very slow process of weaning Mari off mechanical ventilation began. At the outset, it was not clear that the process was successful. Through incredible effort on Mari’s part, she was fully weaned off mechanical ventilation by August 20, and discharged to a rehabilitation facility. She spent more than two months at the rehabilitation facility diligently attempting to re-acquire the ability to speak, breathe, and move her arms and legs on her own. She was discharged home on November 1, still in need of essentially 24-hour care. Since that time, she has worked every day toward achieving her goal, as yet unreached, of walking again. Medical expenses exceed $1,000,000.
The California Department of Public Health report on the Campylobacter outbreak among people who consumed unpasteurized milk, of which Mari was a part, was released in October 2008.
In November of 2011, an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak was traced to the consumption of raw milk products produced by Cozy Valley Creamery near Tenino, Washington. Three people, including two children who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, became ill with E. coli infections after drinking the dairy’s raw milk. The Washington State Department of Agriculture investigation into the E. coli outbreak revealed E. coli contamination in the dairy’s milking parlor and processing areas. Cozy Valley Creamery recalled its raw skim and whole milk after the Agriculture Department reported its positive tests for E. coli.
Marler Clark represents a 5-year-old girl who was hospitalized for 7 days with hemolytic uremic syndrome secondary to E. coli infection incurred over $34,000 in medical bills. She escaped kidney dialysis, but will require life-long medical monitoring to ensure her kidneys continue to function properly.
Bottom line, raw milk is a risky elixir and consumers need to be informed. Download, Raw Milk Outbreak Data 1998 – 2011 and more detailed Raw and Pasteurized Milk and Cheese Outbreak Data 2010 to present.