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Food Safety News

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Organic Pastures Milk Quarantined, Recalled

Organic Pastures raw dairy products are being recalled statewide in California and are subject to a quarantine order by California State Veterinarian Annette Whiteford.

The quarantine order came following notification by the California Department of Public Health that five children were infected, from August through October, with the same strain of E. coli O157:H7, the state said in a news release.

Under the recall, all Organic Pastures raw dairy products with the exception of cheese aged a minimum of 60 days are to be pulled immediately from retail shelves and consumers are strongly urged to dispose of any products remaining in their refrigerators. 

Until further notice, Organic Pastures may not produce raw milk products for the retail market. The order also affects Organic Pastures raw butter, raw cream, raw colostrum, and a raw product labeled “Qephor,” state public health officials said.

Organic Pastures has had past food-safety challenges, including being implicated in a 2006 outbreak very similar to the current recall and outbreak, and civil litigation brought by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prevent it from distributing unpasteurized milk across California’s state lines.

The children who are ill are residents of Contra Costa, Kings, Sacramento, and San Diego counties, all in California.  

Interviews with the families indicate that their only common reported food exposure was unpasteurized (raw) milk from Organic Pastures dairy. Three of the five children were hospitalized with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a serious condition that may lead to kidney failure. 

There have been no deaths.

Surveys indicate that only about three percent of the public report drinking raw milk in any given week, so the finding that 100 percent of the infected children drank raw milk, combined with the absence of other common foods or animal exposures, indicates the Organic Pastures raw milk is the likely source of their infection, California public health officials said.

 

“While laboratory samples of Organic Pastures raw milk have not detected E. coli 0157:H7 contamination, the epidemiologic data collected by the California Department of Public Health link the illnesses to Organic Pastures raw milk,” state officials said.

The sale of raw milk is legal in California, although the great majority of milk consumed in the state is pasteurized. The state requires raw milk and raw milk products to carry the following warning on the label: “Warning – raw (unpasteurized) milk and raw milk dairy products may contain disease-causing micro-organisms. Persons at highest risk of disease from these organisms include newborns and infants; the elderly; pregnant women; those taking corticosteroids, antibiotics or antacids; and those having chronic illnesses or other conditions that weaken their immunity.”

Symptoms of E. coli O157:H7 infection may include abdominal cramps and often bloody diarrhea. Most infected people recover within a week; however, some may develop complications that require hospitalization. Young children and the elderly are at highest risk for HUS, the potentially life-threatening complication.

People who develop symptoms of E. coli O157:H7 infection after consuming unpasteurized milk or milk products should consult their health care provider. Physicians who have patients suspected of having HUS or E. coli O157:H7 infections should report them to the local health department.

CDFA milk and dairy foods safety experts said they have begun a complete inspection at Organic Pastures dairy – of all facets of operations, from the cows to the bottling plant. 

Before the quarantine may be lifted, the facility must meet all sanitation requirements under state law. Additionally, state public health authorities said raw milk products will be tested to ensure compliance with regulatory standards.  

Organic Pastures was the first raw milk dairy with certified organic pasture land in California.  The dairy is located near Fresno in California’s San Joaquin Valley.  It is family-owned.

© Food Safety News
  • Leigh Cook

    If there is no discovery of ecoli in lab samples, it is criminal to just accuse organic pastures. I am afraid the authorities won’t find the real source.

  • susan Rudnicki

    I find it hypocritical to find members of the American Veterinary Medical Assn. getting on about raw milk and its dangers, while being big supporters of the current re-examination of horse slaughter houses in America. Horses ARE NOT raised as food animals in the US and are almost uniformly treated with drugs banned for use in food animals, (drugs with NO acceptable withdrawal period) Phenlybutazone, a very common analgesic for horses, causes severe human health effects, blood dyscrasisas, and was implicated in the deaths of many people receiving it as experimental arthritis treatment 40 years ago. My point is, the AVMA is NOT a reliably independent scientific resource for judging the safety of any particular comestible. The AVMA is politically conflicted and pushing big time for the return of horse slaughter to the US, in spite of the myriad health issues, environmental, and social issues associated with horse abattoirs.

  • Frank Beal

    Ms.Cook, do you discount the epidemiological study done on the five children?

  • Victor Montes

    I drink unpasteurized milk. I became sick back in August. However, I do not think my sickness was caused by the milk. A few hours before I started feeling sick, I served myself organic lettuce mix, bought at a different health food store. I noticed that some of the leaves turned black and slimy. Instead of discarding the whole package, I picked out leaves that still looked good. After I recovered a few days later, I continued drinking my raw milk from the same bottle. It did not cause me to become sick again. Therefore I doubt the milk was the culprit. I am not a scientist. I just wonder if something similar might have happened in case of those children. Especially, since no bacteria has been found in any of the milk samples.

  • Rachel Bush

    There has now been proven to be ZERO link to these children being ill from the milk, because every single drop of that milk tested by two different labs has come out completely PATHOGEN FREE. They probably ate some tainted produce, not necessarily the same kind, it could have been different ones. Lettuce and melons are frequent carriers of E.Coli. The government wanted to pin this on raw milk so they tried their hardest to, but there is just NO evidence that it could have possibly been the cause. Even the milk in the children’s homes was tested and found to be clean. They have now proven without a shadow of a doubt, it WAS NOT THE MILK. Please make sure to print an article letting people know about this. The recall release was issued just today, so you should be able to find it easily. Organic Pastures’ business has been hurt by these false allegations. There was never a shred of evidence other than they all coincidentally consumed that milk.I’m sure they all ate fruits and veggies too! I’m sure if it had been the milk way more than 5 people would have been ill. Other items legally have to test positive before being pulled from shelves, whereas they tested clean and were still pulled, had to endure more testing and an exceedingly long waiting period, just because someone has an agenda against them! It’s a complete crock of crap. Small farmers should not get bullied for selling quality products that people want.

  • Paula

    I COMPLETELY agree with you Rachel!!!

  • Jennifer D.

    Re: the idea of the pathogen not originating in the milk is a very good possibility, this article shows (with ample documentation) that our “fresh” fruits and vegetables easily harbor these dangers and more, given that “they” are now coating some romaine lettuce, etc. with cow, pig and chicken collagen.
    http://realitybloger.wordpress.com/tag/coating-on-fruit-and-vegetable/
    Even organic produce is at danger, since organic only refers to how the plant is grown, not how it is handled after picking.
    Consumer beware.