July 2011

photofsn.JPGI am at the 100th meeting of the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) in Milwaukee (See our booth). All the talk of course was about food safety as I gave the opening speech this morning about the Food Safety Modernization Act and handed out $40,000 in scholarships to local, state and international health departments this evening.

However, the talk was also about yet another health advisory by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) that was issued Friday night due to concerns about illnesses caused by Salmonella Heidelberg that may be associated with use and consumption of ground turkey. The alert was initiated after there was an association between consumption of ground turkey products and an estimated 77 illnesses reported in 26 states. Yet, the name of the manufacturer was not named by the FSIS.

Interestingly, just a few months ago Jennie-O Turkey Store, a Willmar, Minn. Establishment (owned by Hormel), recalled 54,960 pounds of frozen, raw turkey burger products. At the time the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services notified FSIS of a patient diagnosed with salmonellosis caused by Salmonella serotype Hadar. The investigation expanded to include 12 people in Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illincarois, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Washington, and Wisconsin who also have been diagnosed with Salmonella Hadar infection.

Well, Monday is just around the corner.

Screen Shot 2011-07-31 at 2.03.02 PM.pngThe Pennsylvania departments of Health and Agriculture and the Allegheny County Health Department are advising the public of the possible health risks associated with products, specifically glass-bottled milk, from Brunton Dairy in Aliquippa, Beaver County.

Since June 15, five individuals – three young children and two older adults – developed diarrhea and other symptoms caused by bacteria called Yersinia enterocolitica. All five people drank and became ill from pasteurized milk in glass bottles from the same local dairy.

“Until we can complete our investigation, we are recommending, in the interest of public health, that any glass-bottled milk from the dairy at homes or businesses be discarded or returned to the dairy, and that residents take precaution with other dairy products from Brunton Dairy,” said Secretary of Health Dr. Eli Avila.

The departments are working together to investigate gastrointestinal infections in Beaver and Allegheny counties. Illness onsets range from June 15 through July 17. Other persons in the same households also experienced a similar illness, but the cause of their illness was not confirmed.

Brunton Dairy is certified by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to pasteurize milk at the farm. The dairy produces buttermilk, regular, fat-free, reduced-fat, cream, and chocolate- and strawberry-flavored milk, as well as ice cream. The dairy makes home delivery to households in Western Pennsylvania and sells milk and ice cream at retail establishments. The public may also buy products on the farm, and the milk can be purchased for use by restaurants.

Yersinia enterocolitica bacteria causes diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting and can sometimes enter the bloodstream and affect other organs. Onset of illness usually occurs four to six days after exposure, but can be as short as one day or as long as two weeks. The bacteria can cause severe infections and the illness can mimic appendicitis and sometimes leads to unnecessary surgery.

According to News Reports, Herb Brunton, a partner in the family business, said the dairy is cooperating with the health department during the investigation.

“We started bottling milk in 1964, and this is the first time anything like this has ever happened,” Brunton said. “Our first goal is the safety of our customers.”

Hmm, when was the last time you heard a statement like that when raw milk was recalled?  If I am not mistaken, you will have a hard time finding a similar quote.  However, you will have no trouble finding – “the outbreak did not happen,”  “the illnesses were caused by spinach,”  “the illnesses were caused by the doctors,”  “the illnesses were caused by the victims,”  “the lawyer made it up,” and the old favorite, “it is a conspiracy between public health and big ag.”

See updated chart of raw and pasteurized milk and cheese outbreak chart.

So, who is winning?

I was asked to talk with Sally Fallon Morrell on the Kojo Nnamdi show on WAMU Public Radio in D.C. last week in what the host determined to be the “Raw Milk Wars.”  The producer who called me said that she had tried to find someone, anyone, in public health to go on the show, but everyone refused.  So, she was left with me.

Sally, who has become famous for her pronouncement that raw milk is “magic” was pleasant enough, as was the host and the callers – even my friend Harry.  Some the comments on the WAMU were a bit harsh, but after two decades of being a lawyer, I am more than used to that.   I especially warm to the comments by members of the “Teat Party.”

I was struck by a number of things that Sally said during the show.  One assertion she said made me think I need to do the experiment she suggested of putting Campylobacter in raw milk, leaving it in the fridge for two days with the bottle cap off, and like magic, the Campylobacter disappears.

I was not at all surprised that she mentioned that between 1% and 3% of people in the U.S. consume raw milk – recent CDC’s FoodNet data supports that.  This gets me back to “Dead Milk” 23, “Magic Milk” 202 – who is winning?

I have been keeping track of “Outbreaks, Illnesses and Recalls Linked to Raw (Unpasteurized) and Pasteurized Dairy Products, United States since January 1, 2010 – July 30, 2011.”  Here is the breakdown:


  • 18 raw dairy outbreaks with 202 illnesses, 24 hospitalizations, and no deaths (16 fluid raw milk, 2 aged raw milk cheese)
  • 1 pasteurized dairy outbreak with 23 illnesses, 2 hospitalizations, and no deaths
  • 1 queso fresco Mexican-style cheese outbreak with 5 illnesses and hospitalizations, no deaths
  • 3 sporadic illnesses and hospitalizations from illegal Mexican-style cheese, no deaths

Recalls (no illnesses reported)

  • 11 raw dairy (5 fluid raw milk, 6 aged raw milk cheese)
  • 6 queso fresco Mexican-style cheese
  • 1 chocolate milk due to inadequate pasteurization
  • 1 imported Italian cheese made from pasteurized milk

I know, I know David, some of the raw milk outbreaks and recalls are from raw milk that is intended to be pasteurized, but someone simply could not wait and drank it raw.  However, many of the above outbreaks and recalls came from raw milk truly intended to be consumed that way, and the outbreaks and recalls still happened.  Given the amount of pasteurized milk and cheese consumed in the U.S. yearly versus the amount of raw milk and cheese consumed, 23 illnesses (although unacceptable) sure seems like the winning side when then raw milk side is sickening 202.

I am sure that David, Young Bill or Sally might well dispute the numbers above or claim the outbreaks did not happen, or the recalls were not necessary, or there is simply a grand conspiracy to try and pry the glass of raw milk or slice of cheese out of their cold dead hands.  That is a debate public health should be engaged in.

Continue Reading “Dead Milk” 23, “Magic Milk” 202

I was off to Wisconsin (I think it still is the dairy state) this morning for the IAFP conference when another raw milk issue landed in my inbox – I need to update my chart at www.realrawmilkfacts.com.

Alaska state health officials updated the June report of Campylobacter illnesses on what appears to be an ongoing Campylobacter outbreak connected to consumption of raw milk from Point MacKenzie’s cow share with seven confirmed cases and 11 more that are suspected, according to the new report.

Screen Shot 2011-07-30 at 7.21.20 AM.pngAccording to the state report and the news, the outbreak connected to unpasteurized milk began in May and has continued into July, the report said. The same rare strain of the Campylobacter pathogen was found in all seven cases confirmed in laboratory tests. And, it also was confirmed in manure samples from the Mat-Su farm.  The lab report, combined with the fact everyone who got sick drank raw milk from the same dairy, affirms the conclusion that this outbreak is due to consumption of Farm A (Point MacKenzie Dairy) raw dairy products, the state bulletin said.

Tests didn’t find the pathogen in milk from the farm’s bulk tanks.  That’s not surprising, said state epidemiologist Joe McLaughlin. Campylobacter jejuni “is notoriously difficult to culture from environmental specimens other than raw stool,” Thursday’s epidemiology report said.

Raw milk samples collected in May and June did test positive for a different pathogen, called listeria, which can cause life-threatening meningitis in children and people with compromised immune systems, the state report said.


We have seen them before:

Minnesota Restaurant Ground Turkey 2000

Multistate Private Home Ground Turkey 2008

Jenny-O-Turkey Burgers 2010

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is issuing a public health alert due to concerns about illnesses caused by Salmonella Heidelberg that may be associated with use and consumption of ground turkey from a yet unnamed manufacturer.

This public health alert was initiated after continuous medical reports, ongoing investigations and testing conducted by various departments of health across the nation determined there is an association between consumption of ground turkey products and an estimated 77 illnesses reported in 26 states. The illnesses were linked through an epidemiologic investigation and PFGE analyses by state health departments and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC has reported that a total of 99 individuals infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Agona have been reported from 23 states between January 1 and July 22, 2011. The number of ill persons identified in each state with the outbreak strain is as follows: Arkansas (1), Arizona (3), California (7), Colorado (1), Georgia (8), Illinois (17), Louisiana (2), Massachusetts (1), Minnesota (3), Missouri (3), Nebraska (2), Nevada (1), New Jersey (1), New Mexico (3), New York (7), Ohio (1), Oklahoma (1), Pennsylvania (2), Tennessee (1), Texas (25), Virginia (2), Washington (5), and Wisconsin (2). Among persons for whom information is available, illnesses began on or after January 17, 2011. Ill persons range in age from less than 1 year old to 91 years old, and the median age is 19 years old. Forty-one percent of patients are younger than 5 years old. Sixty percent are female. Eleven persons reported travel to Mexico in the week before they became ill. Ten patients were hospitalized.

20102011.gifInterestingly, the CDC also reports that the strain of Salmonella Agona associated with the 2011 outbreak is comprised of four closely related PFGE patterns that have been rarely identified before in PulseNet. Three of these four PFGE patterns were first identified beginning in 2010. A total of 119 cases from 14 states were reported between May 28, 2010, and September 10, 2010. Distribution of age, sex, ethnicity, and state of residence among ill persons was similar to the distribution seen in the current outbreak. Despite an intensive investigation during the summer of 2010 by local, state, and federal public health agencies that focused on fresh fruit, including papaya, the source of the outbreak was not determined.

Sometimes outbreaks are never determined – to the frustration of state, local and federal health officials – and to the victims in the outbreaks. Active surveillance of foodborne disease is key to catching outbreaks early, stopping them, and accurately determining how the outbreak happened in the first place.

One interesting proposal for a more rapid outbreak response is the Council to Improve Foodborne Outbreak Response (CIFOR). It is a multidisciplinary working group convened to increase collaboration across the country and across relevant areas of expertise in order to reduce the burden of foodborne illness in the United States. The Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) and the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) co-chair CIFOR with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

A Houston company is recalling products made with fresh cut papaya in connection with the multistate outbreak of Salmonella Agona.

papaya-fruit-plate.jpgGHSW of Houston said it was notified that papayas used in its products were associated with the Agromod Produce recall. On July 23, Agromod announced a recall of papayas imported from Mexico that have been linked to 99 illnesses in 23 states.

GHSW said it was calling back its papaya products “on an abundance of caution.” The company said no illnesses have been reported in connection with this fruit.

The recall is for products that went to retail establishments and distribution centers in Texas:

Product UPC State

Garden Highway Island Medley 10 oz. 8.26766-20900.2 Texas

Central Market Island Medley 1 lb. 8.26766-26089.8 Texas

Central Market Island Medley 5 oz. 8.26766-26201.4 Texas

Central Market Papaya Spears 1 lb. 8.26766-26209.0 Texas

Central Market Tropical Medley 1 lb. 8.26766-26114.7 Texas

Central Market Tropical Salsa 11 oz. 8.26766-26218.2 Texas

The recalled products have a best-if-used-by date of 7/30/11 or sooner. The products should not be consumed and should be discarded, or returned to the place of purchase for a refund.

The Agromod Produce recall involves whole papayas. They were distributed under four brand names — Blondie, Yaya, Mañanita, and Tastylicious.

Tri State Beef, a Cincinnati, Ohio, establishment, is recalling approximately 228,596 pounds of beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

The following product is subject to recall:


Each bin bears the establishment number “EST. 1750” inside the USDA mark of inspection. The products subject to recall were produced between July 19, 2011 and July 22, 2011, and sold to federally-inspected establishments for further processing and distribution in Chicago, Ill., Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio, Iowa and Va.

The problem was discovered through routine FSIS testing which confirmed a positive result for E. coli O157:H7. It should be noted that these products were distributed to facilities where they were cooked and as a result received full-lethality treatment, which would effectively kill the E.coli O157:H7 pathogen in the products.

Because the products were shipped into commerce they are subject to recall, even though they were shipped to other federally-inspected establishments where they received full-lethality treatment and would no longer be considered adulterated.

FSIS and the company have received no reports of illnesses associated with consumption of these products. Individuals concerned about an illness should contact a healthcare provider.

A CLASS I Recall is a health hazard situation where there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death.

This recall release is being reissued to expand the July 20 recall to include an undetermined amount of additional ready-to-eat chicken products.

Screen Shot 2011-07-27 at 5.12.22 AM.pngPilgrim’s Pride Corporation, a Mount Pleasant, Texas, establishment, is expanding its recall of ready-to-eat chicken products by an additional 7,072 pounds, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today. The products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. The initial recall was issued on July 20, 2011.

The following products are subject to recall:

  • 16-lb. boxes containing 8 2-lb. bags of “Pilgrim’s Pride Fully Cooked Chicken Breast Breaded Nugget Shaped Patties with Rib meat”

The Chicken Breast Nugget Shaped Patties have a date code of 11531010 inkjetted on the box, best-by date “JUN 02 2012” and bear the establishment number “P-7091A” inside the USDA mark of inspection. Each 2-lb. bag is marked with the date code and “P-7091A.” The products were produced on June 2, 2011, and shipped to a retail chain in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

So, what are you doing Wednesday, July 27, 2011 at 12:06 p.m. Eastern Time?

Me, I get to square off with Sally Fallon, who believes raw milk is “magic food.” Me, I think any food that is marketed to kids and has sickened them needs to be reasonably regulated.

mexican-wrestling-7.jpgHere is the teaser to Kojo’s show:

Recent raids by the FDA have some communities up in arms about whether raw milk is safe to consume. But supporters of unpasteurized milk are rallying a movement that would make it easier to obtain. Kojo explores where food safety, the law and milk collide.


Bill Marler – Attorney, Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm

Sally Fallon – President, Weston A. Price Foundation, author ” Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats”

A war, hopefully not – entertaining, certainly.  Personally, I think the “war” imagery is a bit bothersome.