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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Raw Milk – E. coli, Campylobacter, Listeria – Equals Illnesses, Equals Lawsuits

Here are some links to stories on raw milk-related illnesses that we have, or have had, the honor to represent the ill person or persons (mainly kids), and the status of the cases.

Dee Creek

An outbreak of E. coli bacteria that has sickened 11 or more people, four critically with Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, has been linked to a dairy that was ordered by the state in August to stop selling raw milk.  Dee Creek Farm, accused of defying the order, is being investigated by at least four state and local agencies, and investigators asked that all of those who consumed milk from the dairy contact their local health departments, regardless of whether they are or have recently been ill.  Raw milk no longer sold.  Lawsuits Settled.

Grace Harbor Farms

Two children have been sickened by E. coli bacteria (one with Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome) in a case associated with unpasteurized milk, the state Health Department said Thursday.  The milk came from Grace Harbor Farms, a dairy operation in Whatcom County, the department said.  Testing confirmed both cases were caused by the same strain of the bacteria, E. coli O157:H7 — also the strain at issue in the recent spinach recall.  The Health Department release said both children drank milk from the dairy, whose products are available in several counties through health food stores, PCC Natural Markets and Whole Foods Market.  Raw milk no longer sold.  Lawsuit Settled

Organic Pastures

E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to the consumption of raw milk products.  Five of six patients reported they had consumed Organic Pastures raw dairy products in the week before their illness onset; the sixth patient denied drinking Organic Pastures raw milk, although his family routinely purchased it.  Among the five patients who consumed Organic Pastures dairy products, two consumed raw whole milk, two consumed raw skim milk, and one consumed raw chocolate-flavored colostrum. Four of the five patients routinely drank raw milk from Organic Pastures.  One patient was exposed to Organic Pastures dairy product only once; he was served raw chocolate colostrum as a snack when visiting a friend.  No other food item was commonly consumed by all six patients.  No other illness was reported among household members who consumed brand Organic Pastures products.  Two children developed Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome.  In Litigation.

The Herb Depot

The Herb Depot of sold the raw goat’s milk illegally and encouraged the Pedersen’s to buy it.  Pedersen child developed Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome.  The milk was contaminated with E. coli at the time it was sold. The Missouri Attorney General’s Office is also filing suit against the company for violating the law.  Assume they have stopped selling raw milk.  In Litigation.

Town Farm Dairy

Alexandre Family EcoDairy Farms

Alexandre Family EcoDairy Farms ended its raw milk program after several people who consumed the product got sick, including one Crescent City woman who remains in intensive care and is partially paralyzed (actually on a ventilator). The Del Norte County Department of Public Health suspects at least 15 people who ingested raw milk contracted Campylobacter, a common bacteria found in domesticated animals that can cause gastrointestinal illness.  Raw milk no longer available.  Investigation ongoing.

Trying to be unbiased is difficult.  When you represent people who have been so sick, who are still now on a ventilator, or risk End Stage Renal Disease in the future, unpasteurized milks just does not seem to make much sense.  Here are some posts on both the Pros and Cons of drinking raw milk.

  • http://www.haccptraining.org Roy E Costa

    As I have said many times the public health community is divested from food safety and this is a perfect example. The local health departments often take a stand against raw milk sales, but they stop usually with recommendations, at least in states with legal sales. The problem of raw milk consumption could be an argument for a national food safety agency, i.e., banning raw milk is difficult because of the splintered nature of the regulatory community as it is organized around food safety.
    As you know, FDA bans the sale of raw milk for human consumption in its jurisdiction. The problem is that each state has its own laws regarding the legality of selling raw milk, and there are some states that allow it to be sold. The disturbing trend is that the supporters of raw milk have done an end run around the public health community with claims for healthy benefits and sales are increasing with more states and local areas looking at easing laws or simply allowing the sale.
    This exposes how truly weak public health agencies are, politically. The fact is, that legalizing raw milk sales are on the “do list” of several legislators, who hope to win points with small dairy farmers and the public, it seems. Its easy to portray raw milk to the public as a “right” that farmers have to deliver and consumers have to “right” to consume. its a resounding argument with many people, and anyway its natural, straight from the cow.
    Now, where is the rest of the milk industry? Well, they are part of the problem, consolidation of small dairies into mega operations and monopolies have put small diary farmers out of business. Consumers are part of the problem, the distribution chain is part of the problem, land use planning is part of the problem, loss of agricultural land is part of the problem, and everything must be industrialized in this economy and packaged neatly for mass consumption. And now, the most minimal dairy must run at least 200 head to break even. “Big Dairy” likes the status quo and their monopoly position and would just as soon see the small farmer out of business, it seems. There is a parallel in the “buy local produce market”, same economics, same players, basically.
    To address the economics that are fueling this problem and the political climate calls for action on a national level, but the public health community is way to distracted, and milk prices keep going up, so everybody on the industry side is happy and the public health folks move on to something else. Its just a few injured people that are not happy, and a few food safety “nannies”.
    Again, lack of public health leadership, lack of political support for public health, and industry political pressure wins again at the expense of the public.
    Maybe the legal system should look at the liability of those who promote this proven unsafe product as safe and beneficial. Certainly its supporters are responsible as much as the lax public health folks who allow it or look the other way, maybe they all have liability? Is this contributory negligence? Why does the USDA or FDA not jump in and help bring small farmers back into the stream of milk sales with incentives and economic stimuli? I guess we know why.
    Roy E Costa, R.S., M.S./M.B.A.
    Public Health Sanitarian Consultant
    Environ Health Associates, Inc
    1.386.734.5187
    http://www.haccptraining.org
    http://www.safefoods.tv
    rcosta1@cfl.rr.com

  • Allen R. Sayler

    While I appreciate Roy’s explanation of where the rest of the public health community is, I would suggest the public health community has been very active, but fragmented, in its response to the campaign of misinformation that has caused state legislatures to expand state statues allowing for direct human consumption of raw milk. We have a strong position of opposition from FDA along with an entire website. FDA staff have even testified at state legislative hearings, only to be laughed at or mocked by legislators or their staff. Dr. Doug Powell has been very active in this area as well. IDFA has submitted written testimony entered into the record at many state legislative hearings. NEHA and IAFP has strong policy statements opposing the direct human consumption of raw milk. IAFP has just established a Raw Milk Subcommittee operating under the Dairy Quality & Safety PDG. DMI has a wealth of nutritional information demonstrating the lack of any significant nutritional advantage to offset the high illness risk associated with direct human consumption of raw milk. Pediatric doctors have also gone on record opposing such consumption in children.
    Meanwhile, the raw milk direct consumption groups march on almost unimpeded. In a misguided attempt to improve dairy farm profitability, we even have some USDA extension agents promoting direct sales and cow sharing, without regard to the danger and damage this may cause.
    Any effort will have to coordinate all interested parties so we are ready for the next onslaught of efforts starting in December to convince state legislatures to oppose raw milk consumption by humans. Efforts also have to focus on educating the public and doctors to counter misinformation on websites and in the press.
    I would appreciate hearing from others about this growing public health problem.
    Thanks!
    Allen R. Sayler, Vice President
    International Dairy Foods Association
    asayler@idfa.org

  • http://foodsafety.ksu.edu Dr. Douglas Powell

    Thanks for the shout out, Allen, but whenever someone starts saying we need to educate the public — pro, anti or otherwise –things have gone off the rails.
    People educate or inform themselves — it’s up to various folks to provide information in a compelling way. Further, top-down, co-ordinated approaches are no match for a grass roots campaign of compelling stories. That’s what the distributed network of the
    Internet does — everyone can amplify their voice. So, tell stories. The people promoting raw milk/natural/organic/local have that part figured out.
    And why a single issue campaign? Maybe raw oysters be targeted? What about raw produce, which sickens a lot more people?
    Oh, and here’s the latest. Sigh …
    http://thecalifornian.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080818/LIFESTYLE/808180307/1024/LIFESTYLE
    On the positive side, if the media was that effective, given the fawning coverage, a lot more people would be drinking raw milk.
    Dr. Douglas Powell
    associate professor
    scientific director
    International Food Safety Network
    dept. diagnostic medicine/pathobiology
    Kansas State University
    Manhattan, KS
    66506
    cell: 785-317-0560
    fax: 785-532-4039
    dpowell@ksu.edu
    foodsafety.ksu.edu

  • http://www.honestmeat.com Rebecca T. of HonestMeat

    Can you do similar research on the number of folks sickened by pasteurized milk (because cooking milk does not kill everything, especially contamination that can happen at the bottling stage)? The great irony is that the huge mega-dairies that produce the majority of this country’s pasteurized milk are the same ones incubating and spreading the deadly E.coli 0157:H7 through their feedlot conditions and over-feeding of grains and waste products.

  • I. Edison Bolin

    It seems to me that the USDA, FDA, CDC, various legislative bodies and the industrialized Dairy Industry have all gotten on board in promoting the “Raw Milk = Death” message. And yet, many other agricultural products pose as much, if not more, risk of illness and injury than milk. So why this much fuss over raw milk? Probably because oysters, deli meats, spinach, etc. are “final stage” products.
    Raw milk, however, can be a first stage for cream, skim milk, butter, buttermilk, cheese, yogurt, etc. If consumer milk must be pasteurized, these products cannot be made from processed milk. Thus, we are at mercy of the dairy industry to supply these individual items.
    This benefits the grocer, supplier, unions, marketing companies,trade organizations, law firms, etc. But not the consumer.

  • http://www.milkdirect.com.au milk delivery

    E. coli has been a big problem for different countries actually, there are different companies who’s pulled out their product from the market because it was affected by such bacteria.

  • Peder

    Let people themselves decide whether they want to drink raw milk or not. It is not for the government to decide.

    Many years ago I guess we all drank raw milk.