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Tests Negative at Raw Milk Dairy Tied to Outbreak

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says tests did not detect Campylobacter in samples from a South Carolina raw milk dairy that public health investigators suspect made eight people ill in North Carolina.

All of those sickened — three people confirmed with campylobacteriosis and another five people who had probable infections — said they drank unpasteurized milk obtained via a courier from Tucker Adkins Dairy on June 14, the FDA said earlier this month. One person was hospitalized.

The FDA said milk from a June 14 sample was negative for the bacteria, which can cause bloody diarrhea and fever.

The negative lab test result does not rule out raw milk as the cause of the outbreak, according to the FDA.  “The pathogen may have been in only one portion of the food. A sample taken from a portion that was not contaminated will have a negative test result,” said Stephanie Yao, of FDA’s Office of Public Affairs, in an email.

“The epidemiologic investigation implicated the raw milk as the cause of this outbreak,” Yao said.

This lack of a “smoking gun” is not unusual in foodborne illness investigations, and a negative test result on samples after the fact is not proof that a product was uncontaminated. One recent example:  In the outbreak of E. coli O104:H4 in Europe, epidemiologic evidence points to sprouts sold to local restaurants and markets by a single farm as the source of nearly 4,000 illnesses, yet no sprouts or environmental samples from that grower tested positive for the outbreak pathogen.

The FDA’s Yao said the investigation into the outbreak of Campylobacter in South Carolina/North Carolina is ongoing.

The sale of unpasteurized milk is legal in South Carolina, and Tucker Adkins is licensed to sell raw milk within the state. The state of South Carolina inspects raw milk dairies monthly and tests for bacteria, although not for Campylobacter.

Under federal law, milk transported across state lines must first be pasteurized to protect the public health. The FDA says a courier was delivering Tucker Adkins raw milk twice a month to customers in North Carolina, where raw milk sales are not permitted by state law. There is no law against drinking raw milk: only retail sales are regulated.

In an interview with The Herald of Rock Hill, SC, Tucker Adkins dairy owner Carolyn Adkins said FDA officials investigating the Campylobacter outbreak asked for a list of her customers. She said she knew them by “their first name, by their prayer needs, by their family news,” but did not keep a list of last names or addresses. “This is a cash business,” she told the newspaper, which said Adkins sells raw milk for $6 a gallon. The dairy produces about 80 to 100 gallons of milk per day.

© Food Safety News
  • hhamil

    As the courier connected to this outbreak normally picks up about 60 gallons, the last sentence (“The dairy produces about 80 to 100 gallons of milk per day.”) adds needed, important information to those of us who are trying to understand what actually occurred.
    Most of the rest of the article supports the idea that this is a situation in which the FDA has taken the attitude that Tucker Adkins Dairy is guilty until proven innocent and any evidence supporting Tucker Adkins Dairy’s innocence is delayed, downplayed or suppressed.
    According to Julie Henry of the NC Department of Health and Human Services, The “sample” was actually an UNOPENED, full gallon of milk distributed by the courier involved. It was obtained on 7/13/11 in Iredell County.
    The FDA, itself, tested the milk. The public health concerns were so great in this an outbreak (where the investigators had a complete list of the recipients of 60 gallons of a batch that is normally 80 to 100 gallons and the dairy could tell them exactly how large it was) that the FDA put out a press release on a Saturday. Contrast this with the fact that it took 13 days from start to finish before the public learned the results of the test and then only because of a persistent reporter. Also, contrast that with how long it would have taken the FDA to announcement a positive test. In addition, it surely would be great if Food Safety News had questioned how long the process took and how long such tests actually take.
    Not only did the FDA NOT issue a similar press release, yesterday, the FDA’s home page on food was still highlighting its out of date press release!
    In addition, when is Food Safety News going to follow up on the obvious issues raised by Stephanie Yao, of FDA’s Office of Public Affairs when she said, “The pathogen may have been in only one portion of the food. A sample taken from a portion that was not contaminated will have a negative test result,” And this time don‚Äôt accept it from a public affairs person, ask it of one of the actual investigators so they can‚Äôt hide behind the ‚ÄúThat person is only a public affairs person not a scientist‚Äù defense.
    Ms. Yao‚Äôs statement brings into question the entire rationale behind testing in food safety because, if testing isn’t definitive with a liquid, how could it ever be with solids, particularly unmixed ones like produce?
    Finally, please cite for us a statute, regulation or court order supporting your statement, “Under federal law, milk transported across state lines must first be pasteurized to protect the public health.‚Äù The only current prohibition is against putting raw milk “into interstate commerce.” There is NO law against a person carrying raw milk across a state line who is NOT putting the raw milk “into interstate commerce.” That is, however, exactly what the FDA has asserted in its answer to question posed by the judge hearing the in the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund case in Georgia. See http://www.farmtoconsumer.org/fda-answers-judge-kennedy.htm.

  • Minkpuppy

    UPS is a courier service and delivers food products all the time. Does that make the food companies exempt from following the food safety laws when it comes to shipping raw milk or meat just because they used UPS (a courier service) to deliver it? NO IT DOESN’T.
    Carol Adkins WAS putting raw milk into commerce. Regardless of how it was delivered, she sold milk to people living in another state and it was delivered across state lines to those individuals. It’s a technicality but a big one.
    Stop trying to rationalize it by saying it’s not the same because a “courier” delivered it. Money exchanged hands for the product and it was delivered across state line by someone other than the consumer. The customers would have been better off driving to the farm themselves and picking up the milk. From what you state, that would have been legal. Having a courier deliver it on the behalf of the farmer is not so clear cut. Considering Ms. Adkins kept no records of her customers or their addresses, that indicates to me that she knew what she was doing wasn’t strictly kosher, if you catch my drift.
    Relying on test results to prove safety, or guilt in this instance, just creates a false sense of security. Samples only provide a snapshot of what’s going on and don’t tell you much about the contamination level of the whole lot of product. It just means that sample from whatever area it was taken is contaminated or not.
    A negative result in this case doesn’t absolve Tucker Adkins of responsibility. South Carolina health officials determined an epidemiological link to the raw milk from interviewing the victims. It was the one thing they had in common-they all consumed the raw milk they purchased from Tucker Adkins Dairy.

  • Minkpuppy

    Oh, and here’s the link to the regulation that mandates the milk must be pastuerized before entering interstate commerce:
    http://law.justia.com/cfr/title21/21-8.0.1.5.48.4.1.2.html
    Excerpt below:
    Title 21: Food and Drugs
    PART 1240—CONTROL OF COMMUNICABLE DISEASES
    Subpart D—Specific Administrative Decisions Regarding Interstate Shipments
    Browse Previous | Browse Next
    § 1240.61 Mandatory pasteurization for all milk and milk products in final package form intended for direct human consumption.
    (a) No person shall cause to be delivered into interstate commerce or shall sell, otherwise distribute, or hold for sale or other distribution after shipment in interstate commerce any milk or milk product in final package form for direct human consumption unless the product has been pasteurized or is made from dairy ingredients (milk or milk products) that have all been pasteurized, except where alternative procedures to pasteurization are provided for by regulation, such as in part 133 of this chapter for curing of certain cheese varieties.

  • Harry Hamil

    As the courier connected to this outbreak normally picks up about 60 gallons, the last sentence (“The dairy produces about 80 to 100 gallons of milk per day.”) adds needed, important information to those of us who are trying to understand what actually occurred.
    Most of the rest of the article supports the idea that this is a situation in which the FDA has taken the attitude that Tucker Adkins Dairy is guilty until proven innocent and any evidence supporting Tucker Adkins Dairy’s innocence is delayed, downplayed or suppressed.
    According to Julie Henry of the NC Department of Health and Human Services, The “sample” was actually an UNOPENED, full gallon of milk distributed by the courier involved. It was obtained on 7/13/11 in Iredell County.
    The FDA, itself, tested the milk. The public health concerns were so great in this an outbreak (where the investigators had a complete list of the recipients of 60 gallons of a batch that is normally 80 to 100 gallons and the dairy could tell them exactly how large it was) that the FDA put out a press release on a Saturday. Contrast this with the fact that it took 13 days from start to finish before the public learned the results of the test and then only because of a persistent reporter. Also, contrast that with how long it would have taken the FDA to announcement a positive test. In addition, it surely would be great if Food Safety News had questioned how long the process took and how long such tests actually take.
    Not only did the FDA NOT issue a similar press release, yesterday, the FDA’s home page on food was still highlighting its out of date press release!
    In addition, when is Food Safety News going to follow up on the obvious issues raised by Stephanie Yao, of FDA’s Office of Public Affairs when she said, “The pathogen may have been in only one portion of the food. A sample taken from a portion that was not contaminated will have a negative test result,” And this time don‚Äôt accept it from a public affairs person, ask it of one of the actual investigators so they can‚Äôt hide behind the ‚ÄúThat person is only a public affairs person not a scientist‚Äù defense.
    Ms. Yao‚Äôs statement brings into question the entire rationale behind testing in food safety because, if testing isn’t definitive with a liquid, how could it ever be with solids, particularly unmixed ones like produce?
    Finally, please cite for us a statute, regulation or court order supporting your statement, “Under federal law, milk transported across state lines must first be pasteurized to protect the public health.‚Äù The only current prohibition is against putting raw milk “into interstate commerce.” There is NO law against a person carrying raw milk across a state line who is NOT putting the raw milk “into interstate commerce.” That is, however, exactly what the FDA has asserted in its answer to question posed by the judge hearing the in the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund case in Georgia. See http://www.farmtoconsumer.org/fda-answers-judge-kennedy.htm.

  • bachcole

    Immoral laws are just waiting to be broken, and they undermine the rule of law by being immoral. Just because there is a law or regulation on the books saying that raw milk should not be transported across state lines does not mean that good and knowledgeable people are morally required to obey said law or regulation.

  • hhamil

    Minkpuppy,
    As I wrote in my response to your other comment on “Salmonella not found in Idaho sprout test” at http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/07/salmonella-not-found-in-idaho-sprout-tests/, before accusing someone, I suggest that you make certain that you have your facts straight.
    Tucker Adkins Dairy did NOT hire the courier to deliver milk to people in NC. Had they done so, the FDA would have rightly gone to court and obtained an injunction stopping them from violating the regulation you cited.
    Rather, what usually happens here in NC is that raw milk lovers in our fair state organize themselves and take turns or hire someone to go to SC to purchase the milk for them and bring it back to them. Many of these groups operate completely out in the open and are easy to find. Because of the proximity of carefully regulated raw milk from SC, we have fewer problems with bootleg raw milk sales in NC. Raw milk lovers recognize the quality and safety available nearby.
    Thanks for quoting the regulation because it clearly shows that what Tucker Adkins Dairy was completely kosher, to use your characterization. It says, “No person shall cause to be delivered into interstate commerce.” Selling to a person from another state who is using an agent to physically pay for and pick up the product is one of the issues raised by Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) in the lawsuit I cited in the last paragraph of my earlier comment.
    Apparently, you missed the following paragraph from FTCLDF, as linked above:
    “In its March 16 response to the judge’s questions, FDA took the position that ‘a person who purchases unpasteurized milk in one state with the intent to take it to another state (either for personal use or to distribute to others) is engaging in interstate commerce.’ As for consumers who cross state lines intending to take raw milk back home for personal use, FDA stated that it ‘has never sought to bring an enforcement action against a person because he or she crossed a state boundary to purchase and return with raw milk solely for his or her own use, and FDA has no present intent to bring an action against such a person in the future. Nevertheless…the hypothetical interstate traveler in this example would have ‘caused’ raw milk ‘to be delivered into interstate commerce’ in violation of 21 C.F.R. §1240.61.’”
    Please note that the FDA doesn’t agree with your reading of the law. It asserts much greater authority than you do. What sophistry…not to mention the huge power grab.
    In fact, the FDA has been trying to force SC raw milk dairies to ascertain where their customers live and refuse to sell to them if they are not residents of SC. The FDA hasn’t succeeded because the dairies can sell at retail to anyone. Wholesale is a different matter.
    Minkpuppy, it was a NC epidemiologist who found hypothesized the link to the raw milk after quite a bit of effort. I used your word, “link,” because the only “evidence” is that 3 cases and 5 probable cases say they all drank the raw milk in question.
    In this case, the investigators are in the enviable position of being able to ascertain exactly how much of the 60 gallons brought to NC was drunk and by whom. Thus, they can conclusively know whether or not they got sick. It is clear to me that balancing the 8 people who apparently are linked are the many who didn’t. How do we account for their NOT getting sick?
    I thank you for your discussion about the limitations of testing. I agree with you completely.
    Now will you join us in fighting the foolish expansion of testing that is being used by the more regulation is better advocates to falsely lull consumers into complacency and cover up the limitations of their expensive approach to food safety.
    As tests on liquids are more effective than with solids, this test is further evidence that the hypothetical link between Tucker Adkins Dairy and those who got sick is only hypothetical and not actual. When raw milk might be involved, the FDA acts as if it is guilty until proven innocent. That is not only contrary to our legal system, it is lazy. It is exactly that type of bias and laziness that led to the economic disaster incurred by numerous farmers during the 2008 salmonella tomato/pepper fiasco.
    My guess is that we will never know conclusively the source of these 8 illnesses.
    What has gotten lost in all of this is the stellar record of regulation of raw milk in SC. In all the years that it as been in operation and the millions of gallons of raw milk that have been consumed, there has only been one other very small outbreak with any link to raw milk produced under the regulation. It occurred in a private home and the only evidence that it was linked to the raw milk was the proximity of its consumption.
    I have no question that the incidence rate of outbreaks conclusively connected to raw milk would be reduced if EVERY state were to follow the example of SC. I doubt that will happen because of the demonization of raw milk by certain people regarded as food safety advocates. I find that to be very sad.
    For the record, as far as I know, I have never drunk even a sip of raw milk. And, because I am a grower, distributor and retailer of local, healthy food, I can’t afford the time it takes to set the record straight on Food Safety News. I’m taking the time because, as a Carolinian who works in local, healthy food, these are my neighbors who are being impacted by this.
    As always, I will happily discuss everything I have written (and publish corrections of any mistakes shown to me) if written to at healthyfoodcoalition@gmail.com.

  • Harry Hamil

    Minkpuppy,
    As I wrote in my response to your other comment on “Salmonella not found in Idaho sprout test” at http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/07/salmonella-not-found-in-idaho-sprout-tests/, before accusing someone, I suggest that you make certain that you have your facts straight.
    Tucker Adkins Dairy did NOT hire the courier to deliver milk to people in NC. Had they done so, the FDA would have rightly gone to court and obtained an injunction stopping them from violating the regulation you cited.
    Rather, what usually happens here in NC is that raw milk lovers in our fair state organize themselves and take turns or hire someone to go to SC to purchase the milk for them and bring it back to them. Many of these groups operate completely out in the open and are easy to find. Because of the proximity of carefully regulated raw milk from SC, we have fewer problems with bootleg raw milk sales in NC. Raw milk lovers recognize the quality and safety available nearby.
    Thanks for quoting the regulation because it clearly shows that what Tucker Adkins Dairy was completely kosher, to use your characterization. It says, “No person shall cause to be delivered into interstate commerce.” Selling to a person from another state who is using an agent to physically pay for and pick up the product is one of the issues raised by Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) in the lawsuit I cited in the last paragraph of my earlier comment.
    Apparently, you missed the following paragraph from FTCLDF, as linked above:
    “In its March 16 response to the judge’s questions, FDA took the position that ‘a person who purchases unpasteurized milk in one state with the intent to take it to another state (either for personal use or to distribute to others) is engaging in interstate commerce.’ As for consumers who cross state lines intending to take raw milk back home for personal use, FDA stated that it ‘has never sought to bring an enforcement action against a person because he or she crossed a state boundary to purchase and return with raw milk solely for his or her own use, and FDA has no present intent to bring an action against such a person in the future. Nevertheless…the hypothetical interstate traveler in this example would have ‘caused’ raw milk ‘to be delivered into interstate commerce’ in violation of 21 C.F.R. §1240.61.’”
    Please note that the FDA doesn’t agree with your reading of the law. It asserts much greater authority than you do. What sophistry…not to mention the huge power grab.
    In fact, the FDA has been trying to force SC raw milk dairies to ascertain where their customers live and refuse to sell to them if they are not residents of SC. The FDA hasn’t succeeded because the dairies can sell at retail to anyone. Wholesale is a different matter.
    Minkpuppy, it was a NC epidemiologist who found hypothesized the link to the raw milk after quite a bit of effort. I used your word, “link,” because the only “evidence” is that 3 cases and 5 probable cases say they all drank the raw milk in question.
    In this case, the investigators are in the enviable position of being able to ascertain exactly how much of the 60 gallons brought to NC was drunk and by whom. Thus, they can conclusively know whether or not they got sick. It is clear to me that balancing the 8 people who apparently are linked are the many who didn’t. How do we account for their NOT getting sick?
    I thank you for your discussion about the limitations of testing. I agree with you completely.
    Now will you join us in fighting the foolish expansion of testing that is being used by the more regulation is better advocates to falsely lull consumers into complacency and cover up the limitations of their expensive approach to food safety.
    As tests on liquids are more effective than with solids, this test is further evidence that the hypothetical link between Tucker Adkins Dairy and those who got sick is only hypothetical and not actual. When raw milk might be involved, the FDA acts as if it is guilty until proven innocent. That is not only contrary to our legal system, it is lazy. It is exactly that type of bias and laziness that led to the economic disaster incurred by numerous farmers during the 2008 salmonella tomato/pepper fiasco.
    My guess is that we will never know conclusively the source of these 8 illnesses.
    What has gotten lost in all of this is the stellar record of regulation of raw milk in SC. In all the years that it as been in operation and the millions of gallons of raw milk that have been consumed, there has only been one other very small outbreak with any link to raw milk produced under the regulation. It occurred in a private home and the only evidence that it was linked to the raw milk was the proximity of its consumption.
    I have no question that the incidence rate of outbreaks conclusively connected to raw milk would be reduced if EVERY state were to follow the example of SC. I doubt that will happen because of the demonization of raw milk by certain people regarded as food safety advocates. I find that to be very sad.
    For the record, as far as I know, I have never drunk even a sip of raw milk. And, because I am a grower, distributor and retailer of local, healthy food, I can’t afford the time it takes to set the record straight on Food Safety News. I’m taking the time because, as a Carolinian who works in local, healthy food, these are my neighbors who are being impacted by this.
    As always, I will happily discuss everything I have written (and publish corrections of any mistakes shown to me) if written to at healthyfoodcoalition@gmail.com.

  • Minkpuppy

    I can’t say I’ve never had raw milk- one of my childhood friends lived on a dairy farm and we all drank fresh milk on a school field trip. That being the exception, haven’t touched it since and won’t. I’ve studied too much microbiology.
    How do I account for the folks that didn’t get sick? How do we know that for certain? They may have been mild illnesses that the consumer didn’t bother going to the Doctor for, got over quickly and never even thought the milk could be to blame. Happens all the time. Possibly the victims received milk that had gotten warm enough to allow the small amt of bacteria in it to grow and multiply to dangerous. They also may have been more susceptible due to age or health problems. We may never know for sure.
    You cannot assume that just because the others didn’t report, illnesses then it must not be the milk. Its well known that foodborne illness is under reported and that folks blow off an upset tummy as stomach viruses.
    If you’re looking for outbreaks to always be confirmed with lab tests, you’re not being realistic. Very few outbreaks are definitively linked to a food through testing. By the time symptoms kick in, the offending food has usually been consumed or discarded making it impossible to get a sample. The consumer has probably forgotten what they ate and when. That’s where epidemiology steps in and tries to figure it out. I’d say the fact that raw milk was the one thing all had in common is a pretty good indicator that it was the milk. Epidemiology isn’t perfect but it’s the best we have right now. The illnesses are not hypothetical so don’t insult the victims by using that term.
    FDA was perfectly reasonable to warn about tomatoes a few years ago based on the info they had at the time. I don’t buy the theory that they conspired to destroy the tomato growers. I enjoy Coast to Coast AM as much as the next guy but I don’t necessarily believe all the conspiracy theories out there. 🙂 They could have handled it better but don’t assume they didn’t learn from it. I view FDA as being in the place that FSIS was at when Jack-in-the Box happened. Its going to take decades to get them up to snuff.
    Would you rather FDA hadn’t said anything all and allowed the illnesses to continue with no clue to the source?
    I’ve already responded to your false assumption that I don’t Know what interstate commerce is on the other article so I won’t go into it again. I’m a regulator so you and I are just going to have to agree to disagree on that.
    Since apparently I’m so misinformed, I would like to see your evidence that supports your claims. I have been known to change my mind once in awhile. Provide some links in your comments please!
    The testing issue is a direct result of political pressure from people that don’t seem to understand microbiology. It’s not going away anytime soon.
    The only food safety cause I vehemently support is the formation of one food safety agency seperate from FDA, FSIS and all the other agencies with food safety responsibilities. There’s too much redundancy and confusion over who’s responsibility it is when something happens.

  • Doc Mudd

    Harry queries: “…if testing isn’t definitive with a liquid, how could it ever be with solids…”
    Well, testing for campylobacter seems to have worked out OK for semi-solid/semi-liquid diarrhea up in Alaska — another raw milk food poisoning outbreak…
    http://www.adn.com/2011/07/29/1991935/alaska-dairy-tied-to-illnesses.html#ixzz1TYtRcsKV
    Geez, Harry, like you didn’t already have enough to do here in the lower 48. Looks like now you’ll have to saddle up and ride hell-bent to the Yukon. Is your camel’s back sufficiently healed from the last load of factual straw to withstand this new onslaught of epidemiologic truth?
    http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/07/asymptomatic-e-coli-infections-pose-new-eu-threat/

  • bachcole

    Doc Mudd,
    And how many people live in the United States? How about the millions of people who have all manner of diseases because of your beloved franken-food. When you get keen about taking responsibility for your health, then please get back to us about how best we should handle real food.
    In the mean time, don’t tread on us.

  • Doc Mudd

    bachole queries:
    “And how many people live in the United States?”
    …..About 300 million, in round numbers
    “How about the millions of people who have all manner of diseases because of your beloved franken-food.”?
    …..from “franken-food”, that would be precisely zero (0) people, in exact numbers
    “When you…blah, blah, blah, blah…”
    …..I am entirely responsible for my own health, always have been, expect always to be. I don’t care, bachole, how you handle your own food…only how you handle food intended for consumption by others, especially kids.
    …..food is food — it is all “real”. Only your whacky amateur theories of food safety and nutrition are imaginary, bachole.
    “In the meantime…blah, blah, blah…”
    …..aww; tread, tread, stomp, trample, dropkick, smile.
    Heh, all rattle and no bite! Stupid reptiles.

  • bachcole

    Actually, almost every modern disease is caused by franken-food.

  • Doc Mudd

    bachole asserts: “Actually, almost every modern disease is caused by franken-food.”
    And that, no doubt, is based upon an epidemiolgic survey observance that nearly everyone who eats eventually dies.
    Yep. It must be the food that’s killin’ ’em.
    Well done, perfesser bachole, well done.
    Franken-food, indeed. Ranks right up there with sasquatch, alien abductions and homeopathy. Incidence of deaths from franken-food are about equivalent to cause of death from sasquatch. Turns out silly boogiemen are real, real scary…just not particularly lethal.