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Patient count increases in E. coli outbreak linked to organic raw milk; dairyman says California’s outbreak data is ‘garbage’

State officials added two more people to the list of patients in an E. coli outbreak in California linked to raw milk from Organic Pastures Dairy Co., but the dairy operator says the state’s data is “garbage.”

Of the eight people confirmed with the “unique strain of Shiga-toxin producing E. coli O157,” two developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a spokesman for the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) said Thursday.


Seven of those sickened in the outbreak are children. None of the patients’ names or hometowns have been released by the state.

Five of the eight patients drank Organic Pastures unpasteurized raw milk before becoming ill, according to California health officials.

“All eight illnesses occurred in January. The investigation is ongoing,” the CDPH spokesman said.

Mark McAfee, the founder and CEO of Fresno-based Organic Pastures Dairy Co., said Friday via e-mail that “the CDPH list is garbage and not accurate.”

“That list of 8 includes misc (sic) unsubstantiated consumers that reach back to October,” McAfee said. “(It) includes my grandson (name withheld by Food Safety News) who was never sickened with ecoli (sic). He had some diarrhea and was tested. His stool had shigatoxin (sic) from Shiggella (sic) and not ecoli (sic).

“Nothing has changed. The Fresno patient never developed HUS. I know because I spoke with the family and are very close with them.”

California health officials confirmed on Friday that the January outbreak includes eight patients and that two of them developed HUS.

The syndrome occurs in 5 percent to 10 percent of people diagnosed with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is potentially life-threatening and some patients suffer permanent kidney damage.

“The state data is bad information. This is a story that has no legs. There is nothing to update,” McAfee said Friday. “Everyone is home and no HUS in spite of what the state says on their now very old and inaccurate list. … I spoke with the families and I have direct information.”

Seattle food safety attorney Bill Marler said Friday that he knew at least one of the outbreak patients had developed HUS because that patient’s family has retained him.

“I have seen the medical records and the tests,” Marler said.

Earlier this week McAfee said if only some of the patients reported drinking Organic Pastures Dairy Co. raw milk, the state should be looking for something else common to all of the patients.

On Friday the CDPH reported one of the two new patients added to the outbreak list had consumed Organic Pastures whole raw milk before becoming ill. The department did not yet have complete information on the other additional patient.

“Sometimes patients who drink raw milk are not forthcoming with the source of their illnesses,” Marler said.

Also, parents may not know what their children consume while visiting friends or relatives.

McAfee has said he and other officials with Organic Pastures are in contact with state officials and cooperating with the investigation into the outbreak. The 500-cow commercial dairy posted a recall Feb. 4 on its Facebook page and company website for whole, raw milk that had expiration dates of Jan. 23 and 26.


Editor’s note: Bill Marler is publisher of Food Safety News.

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