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Defiant McAfee Says Raw Milk Recall Will Be ‘Short’

“This is going to be a very short recall.”

That’s the prediction Mark McAfee, owner of Organic Pastures near Fresno, shared with Food Safety News in an email Friday after the state of California on May 10 announced a recall and quarantine of the dairy’s raw milk, raw skim milk, raw cream and raw butter.

OrganicPasturesCampylobacter.jpg

The recall is based on the confirmed detection of Campylobacter bacteria in a sample of the dairy’s raw cream.

Raw milk is milk that hasn’t been pasteurized to kill harmful fecal bacteria that may be in the milk. While some people swear by raw milk, praising it for helping to cure or prevent their health problems, ranging from asthma to Crohn’s Disease, many scientists say those health claims are unfounded.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there are no health benefits from drinking raw milk that cannot be obtained from drinking pasteurized milk. And the CDC says raw milk and raw milk products are 150 times more likely than their pasteurized counterparts to sicken those who consume them.

Organic Pastures and the State of California

With a herd of 420 pastured cows, Organic Pastures is the largest raw milk producer in the nation.

The state is urging consumers who have any of the dairy’s raw milk, raw cream and raw butter in their refrigerators to dispose of it, and retailers are being told to pull those products immediately from their shelves.

According to the May 10 news release from the state’s Department of Food and Agriculure, at least 10 of the people sickened by Campylobacter in 5 counties in California between January through the end of April reported drinking Organic Pastures’ raw milk prior to becoming ill.  Their ages ranged from 9 months to 38, with six of them under 18. None of the patients were hospitalized, and there were no deaths.

In an internal May 10 letter to the department’s chiefs of Emergency Response and Food Safety sections, three department doctors said that based on their investigation to date, “it is likely that Organic Pastures raw milk is the source of at least some of the Campylobacter jejuni infections in California since January 2012.”

The letter concluded by saying that the dates of the onset of illness from January through April 2012, and the detection of the pathogen in some of the dairy’s cream in May “suggest that Campylobacter jejuni contamination of raw milk may be a recurring problem at this dairy.”

Steve Lyle, spokesman for the state’s Department of Agriculture, told Food Safety News that epidemiological evidence collected from people sickened with a foodborne illness and the consumption common among them of a specific product is proof enough of the link between the ill people and the source.

“Epidemiological evidence is accepted as sound science worldwide,” he said.

But in this case, he said, the test results that detected the pathogen in a sample of cream taken during an onsite visit to the farm further bolsters the connection. 

McAffee, however, is having none of this, referring to the unfolding situation as “a Witch Hunt” by the state against his dairy. On May 11 he had requested a hearing with the California Department of Food and Agriculture. The outcome of the hearing was not immediately known.

By late afternoon, the Organic Pastures Facebook page shared this information with customers: 

“On Monday, we will be posting a video message from Mark McAfee, owner of OPDC, giving an update to share with you details on the status on the recall. Additionally, we have negotiated with CDFA the protocol for the fastest return/recall release to market. We apologize for the interruption for the availability of our products. Your safety and your health are our absolute highest priority and concern.”

McAfee also posted information on the dairy’s Facebook page explaining to consumers who had sent him questions about the recall that the state’s Department of Food and Agriculture and Department of Public Health had visited the dairy on May 1 due to reports of milk of “mild cases” of Campylobacter illnesses resulting from various unknown raw milk sources throughout the state. 

 

At that time, he said, “many product samples” were taken from Organic Pastures for testing.

Then, on May 10, at the close of the dairy’s business day, McAfee said the dairy was revisited by state Agriculture Department officials “informing us that they had concluded their testing and all products tested negative with the exception of one raw cream sample, which tested positive for campylobacter.” 

Based on the Agriculture Department’s code requirements, all products must be recalled by reason of the one cream sample, he said.

“We are working quickly and diligently to provide more samples today for further testing,” McAfee said. “We fully expect this recall to be brief.”

As for what consumers should do with any of the dairy’s raw milk or raw-milk products, McAfee said that except for cream, “please feel free and safe to consume them.” 

That’s in direct opposition to what the state is advising.

In an email to Food Safety News, McAfee expressed frustration with the way the samples taken by the state were collected and stored.

“It is very possible that the one raw cream sample that tested positive for Campylobacter was contaminated at the lab,” he asserted.

In contrast, he said, all of the samples tested at the dairy’s lab came up negative for the bacteria.

Memorial Day weekend campout

McAfee said that despite the recall, the dairy’s plans for “Camping with the Cows,” are going forward, with 200 campers expected for the free May 26-27 event.  But he also said that the recall may actually bring up to 500 people to the event.

“The more harassment we get, the bigger the market becomes,” he said. 

An example of that sense of anger against public officials came in loud and clear in this post on the dairy’s Facebook page: 

“Fight the good fight!!!! So sorry you have to keep battling against these puffed up government agencies with their ridiculous god complexes.”

McAfee said he expects his dairy’s raw milk and other products to be back on the retailers’ shelves “well before” the campout.

California allows retail sales of raw milk off the farm, but the dairies must be licensed by the state.

Previous recalls

Organic Pastures has been linked to several past outbreaks of pathogen infection and recalled its unpasteurized dairy products for fecal-pathogen contamination in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2011. In 2006, the raw milk dairy was the subject of a quarantine order after six children became ill with E. coli infections – two experienced kidney failure from hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

In November 2011, the state ordered a recall of Organic Pastures raw milk products and placed the farm on quarantine after five boys who drank unpasteurized milk from the dairy were infected with E. coli O157:H7. Environmental samples collected at Organic Pastures yielded E. coli 0157:H7  indistinguishable from the bacteria infecting the boy
s. Three of the children were hospitalized with HUS.

This is the sixth outbreak in the U.S. associated with unpasteurized dairy products since the start of 2012.  So far this year, at least 18 people have been sickened by Campylobacter from raw goat milk sold in Kansas, 80 people became ill from Campylobacter-contaminated raw cow milk produced by a Pennsylvania farm, and 9 were infected by Campylobacter from raw milk products sold by a San Benito County, CA dairy. Fourteen E. coli O157:H7 infections have been linked to raw cow milk in central Missouri and a raw milk outbreak in Oregon has sickened 19 people with E. coli O157:H7 infections, one with Cryptosporidium and one with Campylobacter.

More information about the myths and facts about raw milk is available here.        

© Food Safety News
  • Alan`

    This is an example of how your enemies will advertise for you. The TV news segment I saw, couldn’t have been a better paid for TV advertisement if McAfee had paid for it himself.

  • Eliza

    I believe it is a ‘Witch Hunt.’ How many dead from commercial cantaloupe? No shutdown of their farms. The almighty Cargill and numerous deaths & illnesses from their ‘meats’ and no shutdown. Business as usual. I think the e. coli & salmonella outbreaks in produce such as cantaloupe & spinach, are directly from the water runoff from neighboring CAFO farms. These big dairy conglomerates want no competition, just like Monsanto wants to own all seeds. The FDA themselves stated that Americans don’t have the right to choose the foods we want. Food=politics & the stock market. It’s all about money. It’s tyranny. People worldwide have been drinking raw milk from cows, goats, sheep, camels, etc., for millennia w/no more pathogens than any other food. I find it despicable that the FDA allows smoking & alcohol w/warnings-but not plain milk straight from the cow. Small dairy farms don’t have the collateral that Big Tobacco & the like have, you see. If I weren’t experiencing it personally I don’t think I’d believe this was actually happening in America.

  • Cam

    Eliza – “People worldwide have been drinking raw milk from cows, goats, sheep, camels, etc., for millennia”
    It’s also been making people ill for millennia….
    You think this is issue is about politics and big business? Puh-lease! These corporations grew big because they provide a safe nutritious product to a public that want them. I’m in no way affiliated with dairy business – it used to be called common sense.
    Stick to the conspiracy theories Eliza; your knowledge of food safety and politics is inadequate.

  • Linda N. Knudsen

    Eliza: Why lie, or are you just clueless? Jensen Farms, the source of the contaminated cantaloupe, is shut down and bankrupt. Cargill had to shut down, and idle 1,200 people, when its Arkansas plant produced tainted turkey. FDA does allow you to drink plain milk, straight from the cow. It only regulates the interstate sale of unpasteurized milk, which if contaminated can become even more hazardous if it is transported any distance without temperature control. Raw Milk is much like Big Tobacco, in that its purveyors continue to deny there is any risk associated with it. The state of California, already strapped for funds, has no choice but to spend our taxpayer dollars trying to figure out why Organic Pastures keeps making its customers sick.

  • Kathy

    HA! Cam, Eliza is right on target with what they are doing, and why. It’s all about control and the almighty dollar. Do some research. It’s all out there if you are brave enough. It is so much easier to just believe what your told by our bought and paid for media. Corporations rule the roost, and you don’t matter to them at all except what they can get out of you dollar wise. So talk to me about how the big corporations have kept us healthy. Look into Monsanto, look into vaccines, I mean really look into it, look into GMO studies. You are 10 times more likely to get sick from your lunch meat than raw milk. But they have not declared war on any of the other sources of food born illness that have actually killed people in recent years. Way out of proportion on what they do to these small farmers.

  • Marco Hoffman

    Pertussis outbreaks and deaths have been reported from eight states since the end of April, with infants dying from whooping cough in New Mexico, Idaho, Arizona and Massachusetts. A whooping cough epidemic in Washington state, where vaccination exemptions are the highest in the nation, is the biggest in 30 years with more than 1,200 cases confirmed. Babies die and families grieve these innocent children’s needless deaths — all because of the false and irresponsible information shills like “Kathy” post anonymously on the Internet about vaccines.
    They don’t tell the truth about raw milk either. Given the relatively tiny number of people who drink unpasteurized milk, the disease rate associated with it is disproportionately higher than the rate of illnesses caused by contaminated beef, chicken, spinach, lettuce, nuts, cantaloupe etc. You’re far more likely to get sick from raw milk than from lunch meat. And raw milk is 150 times more likely to be the source of disease outbreaks than pasteurized milk.
    There is no law against drinking raw milk, there is no war on raw milk. There are just beleaguered public health employees on the front lines, trying to keep up with all the raw milk illness outbreaks that pop up like Whac-A-Mole.
    But this “Kathy” person is right about something. It is all about control and money. For some in the raw milk industry (and let’s skip the pretense that some of these million-dollar raw milk operations are small farms), denying responsibility and letting the insurance company pay for food poisoning is just another cost of doing business. Shame on them.

  • Ray James

    Cataloupe were recalled. Without the fruit being labled as to the grower it was hard to figure out wich farm or farms were involved. A general recall of all cataloupe grown in the region was issued. By the time the farm was located the crop was done for the year. Jensen never reopened and is in bankruptcy.
    No special out to get you raw milk crusade. As an ex-goverment official (local Public Health) I know many who go out of thier way to be fair and are concerned about balancing the need to protet the public and not cause a business harm.

  • Mamita

    People should be able to drink and sell raw milk if they so choose. It’s always the consumers responsibility to do the research and determine their own risk. I don’t think the government needs to have control over every aspect of our lives. . In a world where childhood obesity runs rampant due to the junk that is put in cafeteria food in elementary schools, I think the FDA is barking up the wrong tree. I taught in public school for 9 years and was disgusted by what I saw being served in the cafeteria. If the FDA really gave a damn about public health, they’d outlaw things like donuts and McDonalds. In my opinion those are the foods that are a real threat. We have a generation growing up in America who’s life expectancy will be shorter than their parents due to obesity rates.
    As a woman who has given natural birth under the care of a midwife, breast fed my child for two years, buys organic, and uses food supplements to increase health, I find the backlash against natural living and natural health care to be frightening.
    We wonder why we have all this cancer in our country. Our soils are depleted, and the vast majority of our food is toxic. And basically what is boils down to is that big agra, big pharma, and big meda don’t want you to have any other choice. Just like the OBs have been trying to stomp out midwifery for decades, big agra uses the FDA to stomp out the organic farmer. Meanwhile, babies get fed the toxic sludge they call formula, c-section rates have shot up like a rocket, and cancer, diabetes, and heart disease rates continue to climb.
    It’s not a theory folks, the FDA, CDC and many other government agencies are revolving doors going between the agency and the big industries.
    I don’t villify industrial food companies until they try to take away my choices, and that is exactly what they are doing.