familycowsign.jpgI do not drink raw milk, and suggest against it, and I would never suggest that children or the elderly drink it, (see, for reasons why) but if I did, a guy like Ed Shank of Your Family Cow Dairy might get me to buy it from him.  Right now, however, he has a bit of a problem.

According to several news reports, the Pennsylvania and Maryland Departments of Health have confirmed cases of Campylobacter infections have increased to a total of 20 confirmed cases – 16 cases have been confirmed in Pennsylvania and four cases of the bacterial illness have been confirmed in the State of Maryland. Testing of the product is still underway at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.  Testing by Ed’s Dairy has so far come back negative.

Although Ed and his customers ( I think I have received a few dozen emails from them) have appropriately raised issues about the epidemiology of Pennsylvania’s and Maryland’s investigation, I was struck by this recent comment from the Farm’s website:

Many of you think an illness is impossible from a dairy as clean, careful, and caring as we are and have told us so. We understand. We would like to think that too, but the fact remains that we are human and we want to be humble enough to admit that it could have been us…either we personally or an equipment failure. 

That is not what I see often from the proponents of raw milk (Mark, I hope you are paying attention?).  There are no conspiracy theories by Ed, just a hard look at the stark facts of epidemiology – people that drank his milk are now sick.

Perhaps David Gumpert, (a.k.a., the Pope of Raw Milk) got it right almost one year ago today when Ed preemptively recalled his raw milk tainted with Campylobacter after his own tests came back positive:

All I can say to those in the public health and regulatory communities who snidely argue that producers of raw dairy are in denial about safety, The times, they are a ‘changin, and farmers like Pennsylvania dairyman Edwin Shank are leading the way.

So, more so than anything, let’s hope that the people sickened get well soon.  As for the investigation, the facts and the science will win out.  Hopefully, however those facts play out, we can move food safety forward – Ed has been a big help.

And, please remember that a Campylobacter illness can be much more than a tummy ache:

Raw Milk Risks: Mari Tardiff Campylobacter Illness from Marlerclark on Vimeo.


See, The Alexandre Eco Farms Dairy Raw Milk Campylobacter Outbreak

Also See, Outbreaks, Illnesses and Recalls Linked to Raw (Unpasteurized) and Pasteurized Dairy Products, United States January 2010 – November 2011

  • Bill, thanks for acknowledging Ed Shank’s commitment to transparency. I think Ed is a model for food safety disclosure that all companies can learn from.
    In addition to his upfront approach to his customers, Ed has sought to work closely with state public health and agriculture officials to get to the bottom of the campylobacter outbreak. He voluntarily halted milk sales, even though he wasn’t required to (since no pathogens have been found in his product.)
    And even while he was getting all kinds of bad press (from this and other blogs and mainstream media) over the last four days, he asked his friends (including me), to refrain from writing about his situation and defending him. He wanted to get all the facts before making any proclamations about what has been happening.
    He seems to truly desire that serious learning take place out of this situation.

  • David – thanks for the thanks.
    One issue, I am not sure that the reason a recall was not done has anything to do with not finding pathogens in his milk. Do you have something from MD or PA HD that states that? As you know recalls can happen with any food product (not just raw milk) regardless of finding or not find a pathogen.
    In 20 years of doing these cases (most having nothing to do with raw milk) the key always is good Epidemiology. It is rare to find leftover products testing positive, because the contaminated portion has already been consumed.

  • David, regarding the “bad press.” All stories I have seen have resulted from press releases or statements from the PA and MD Departments of Health. That is not us and mainstream media (whatever that means) misusing facts, just reporting them.

  • Concerning absence of recall, I have no info…only that Ed Shank voluntarily discontinued milk sales.
    As for “bad press,” your previous post is one example. The heading says “despite denials…” yet to my knowledge Shank didn’t issue denials. Quite the opposite. The implication is that Family Cow is just another of those raw milk dairies that immediately goes into denial mode. I saw similar positioning in a Baltimore paper (example of mainstream media); maybe that’s where you got your “despite denials” idea; there’s nothing in the actual posting that explains the “denials.”

  • David, you are correct – I had received several emails from folks I assumed that were acting on behalf of the farm. In looking back through them, they are clearly from customers. My apologies for the headline. I’ll fix it. Thanks.

  • Bethany

    Thank you Bill, for your fair and accurate evaluation of the situation. The PA Dept. of Health issued a press release which states that the milk “may” contain pathogens and that the Farm “voluntarily suspended raw milk production” during this testing phase. It’s on their website. By the way, I’m just a customer who has never met Mr. Shank but I did research his dairy before we became customers and was happy with what I found out.

  • Bill, appreciate you checking on that post.

  • Foodie At Large

    What a hero! It is a rare fine spirit-lifting thing, when Ed Shank sells me contaminated product or makes my kids sick, that he voluntarily generously magnanimously accepts soulful co-responsibility with me for his wonderfully healing magical toxic real living foods. Warms the very cockles of my heart (and loosens the blessed bowels of afflicted ‘Your Family Cow Dairy’ paying customers everywhere). Hey, it’s all so, so wholesome and good and emotionally soothing! And cathartic. Mostly cathartic. Only cathartic…if me and the kids are lucky again, this time.

  • I wanted to make just a couple of clarifications, including to back up what David said. Indeed, Edwin and family never did deny that their milk could have been the culprit, although certainly many of us had doubts. There have been many people sick in our area with similar symptoms, most of whom do not consume raw milk.
    Edwin sent me the actual test results which the PDA had sent him which were current as of Wednesday: 100% pathogen free, 3 separate tests. It was Maryland who just yesterday confirmed the presence of campy in the 2 jugs of milk they tested. All known illnesses linked to the milk stem from just that one batch of milk, and very few of any people who consumed it actually became ill, which may speak to the power of a healthy immune system and diet than to the presence, or lack there of, of pathogens in milk consumed.
    I hope this helps in everyone’s understanding. As I think all of us can see, and David & I can personally attest to, Edwin and his family are people of deep integrity, appreciation for, and love of their customers and their community. And they are even more dedicated than ever to provide nutritious and *safe* raw milk to those who make the conscious choice to consume it.

  • Time on the Throne is Time Spent Thinking

    Oh, yeah, the power of a healthy immune system, whatever. Pass the toilet paper, will ya? I don’t know how much more of this health food I can stand, to be perfectly honest.

  • Mike

    I purchased raw milk from the family cow during the period in question and had no problems with the milk. If it is contaminated why didn’t I get sick. In fact the taste of the family cow’s milk puts pasteurized milk to shame. Anyone who drinks real milk can testify to this. A significant number of facts appear to be missing from this article. The state of PA as of the date of this article have had no positive test results disclosing bacteria of any type which was found in their samples. The state of Maryland in both of their samples found positive results. I do not want to make any insinuations here but the fact I didn’t get sick and PA has no positive results on their samples yet seems contradictory to the Maryland results. This sounds a little strange to me. There has also been a number of the same type of sicknesses going around but no link to raw milk. No mention of this in the article. I personally am some what skeptical of this whole situation. I have been drinking raw milk (or what I prefer to call it real milk just as the Lord has made it) for over 10 years and have seen a significant improvement in my arthritis while taking no other medication and as far as I know I have never been sick at all from raw/real milk. Pasteurized /homogenized milk is processed and as a result the benefits and nutritional value of the milk is greatly reduced. If you want more facts about raw milk go to and see the other side of the story.

  • Mike

    Interesting book on the internet posted from
    Public health officials claim that pasteurization is “the only way to
    ensure that milk is safe to drink.” Indeed, milk in general—both pasteurized and raw—is a particularly safe food. For example, in 1997, milk and
    milk products accounted for only two-tenths of one percent of all reported cases of food-borne illness. Barring post-pasteurization contamination, residual amounts of protective factors that remain after pasteurization are probably adequate to combat most heat-resistant pathogens
    found in commercial milk. Nevertheless, pasteurized milk sometimes causes illness, and when it does, the outbreak usually involves many individuals. A 1976
    outbreak of Yersina enterocolitica from pasteurized chocolate milk sickened thirty-six children, sixteen of whom required appendectomies. In 1982, the same organism sickened seventeen thousand pasteurized milk consumers in several states. The tainted milk was traced to a pasteurizing plant in Memphis, Tennessee. A 1983 outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes sickened forty-nine people in Massachusetts and caused fourteen deaths. Almost two hundred thousand individuals may have been sickened from the outbreak of Salmonella typhimurium that took place in the Midwest in 1984-85, discussed in Chapter 12.
    During the 1990s, the most serious incidents included an outbreak
    causing over two thousand Salmonella enteritidis illnesses from pasteurized ice cream in Minnesota, South Dakota and Wisconsin and an outbreak of Yersina enterocolitica in pasteurized milk that sickened ten children, three of whom were hospitalized. And there have been recent outbreaks as well.In 2000, Salmonella The Safety of Raw versus Pasteurized Milk 275 typhimurim from pasteurized milk sickened almost one hundred individuals in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Campylobacter jejuni from pasteurized milk sickened two hundred inmates in a Colorado prison in 2005 and almost sixteen hundred inmates in a California prison in 2006.
    In 2007, three people in Massachusetts died from Listeria monocytogenes in pasteurized milk.
    Yet no one from the FDA or other government agencies describes pasteurized milk as “inherently dangerous” or calls for its removal from the marketplace.