Thanks to my good friend David Gumpert over at the Complete Patient for providing me the California Department of Public Health letter to Organic Pastures outlining the likely cause of the 2011 E. coli outbreak linked to Organic Pastures products. According to David, here are the highlights:
* Out of “a significant number of samples” of manure, water, soil, and swabs of various contact surfaces, ten “from the calf area were positive for E. coli O157:H7 (1 swab, 3 soil, 1 water, and 5 fecal)…”
* Two of the samples–one manure and one water– “had a PFGE (pulse-field gel electrophoresis) pattern indistinguishable from the outbreak strain.”
* The CDPH doesn’t speculate about how the E. coli O157:H7 got into the milk from the calf area, except to say, “the fact that E. coli O157:H7 identical to the outbreak strain was recovered from OPDC environment supports the probability that the OPDC raw milk the case patients consumed was similarly contaminated leading to their illnesses.”
* The CDPH also “isolated shiga-toxin producing pathogens” from packaged OPDC colostrum collected at the dairy. “The pathogen is very rare and we were unable to serotype it at our laboratory. The isolate has been sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for further evaluation.” According to the CDC, E. coli O157: H7 is the most common producing E. coli (STEC). Other such E. coli “are not nearly as well understood, partly because outbreaks due to them are rarely identified. As a whole, the non-O157 serogroup is less likely to cause severe illness than E. coli O157; however, some non-O157 STEC serogroups can cause the most severe manifestations of STEC illness.”
* The CDPH also said it found “sanitary deficiencies” in the OPDC milk bottling room, milk storage rooms, labeling room, kefir room, and common areas. These included chipping paint, mold-mildew, and rodent droppings.