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UPDATED: Organic dairy recalls raw milk for E. coli; two sick

UPDATED CONTENT: Washington state officials have clarified that the two illnesses that spurred their investigation at Pride & Joy Dairy were Salmonella infections in people who reported consuming the dairy’s raw milk before becoming ill. The state did not find Salmonella in the company’s milk, but it did find toxin-producing E. coli and asked the owners to voluntarily recall their unpasteurized milk.

Pride & Joy Dairy is recalling its organic, unpasteurized, raw milk after state inspectors investigating illnesses found toxin-producing E. coli bacteria in the dairy’s milk. The recalled milk has best-by dates of Feb. 10 through 24.

For information about raw milk sales and health warnings in Washington state, click on the image.

For information about raw milk sales and health warnings in Washington state, click on the image.

Two illnesses, one in Pierce County and one in Clark County, both involve people who consumed raw milk from Pride & Joy, agriculture communications director Hector Castro told Food Safety News this morning. He said the state collected samples of Pride & Joy milk from retail locations on Jan. 30. Some tested positive for E. coli and the test results were confirmed Tuesday, Castro said.

“It is my understanding they have ceased production,” Castro said this morning. “We are continuing to investigate to find the source of the contamination.”

Castro said when state inspectors believe it is again safe for the dairy to resume sales, the state will notify the businesses that carry Pride & Joy milk that it’s OK to resume sales.

Dairy owner Cheryl Voortman posted comments on the Food Safety News website suggesting the unpasteurized raw milk was contaminated by another link in the supply chain.

“The facility was not contaminated with E. coli, the samples that were taken that supposedly tested positive, were purchased from stores in Vancouver and Battleground, WA, and were handled by many people before tested, Voortman said in her written comments. “They took six samples and only two samples showed any possible contamination. No E. coli has been found at the farm.

“… Pride and Joy Creamery sends out independent samples of every batch of milk that is sent out to customers before any milk leaves the farm. These tests are done through AG Health lab in Sunnyside, WA, as well as the batch in question was also tested by Silliker Inc., which is a California state-approved lab and both labs confirmed E. coli at the lowest possible levels. They have confirmed absolutely no contamination in the samples we have given them straight from the facility.”

Current and previous recalls
Notices posted Wednesday by dairy owners Allen and Cheryl Voortman, and the Washington State Department of Agriculture urged consumers to check their homes for the recalled raw milk, which poses a serious public health risk, according to the state’s Department of Health.

“The recalled milk was sold at the on-farm store and online as well as at drop off locations and retail stores throughout Washington state,” according to the recall notice.

“Consumers who have purchased Pride & Joy Creamery organic retail raw milk with Best By dates of FEB 10 through FEB 24 are urged not to drink the milk and return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.”

The recalled Pride & Joy branded unpasteurized milk is sold in pint, quart, half-gallon and one-gallon plastic containers. Other than the best-by dates, no label codes or other information was included in the recall notice for consumers to use to identify the recalled milk.

No confirmed illnesses had been linked to the recalled milk as of the publication of the recall notice Wednesday afternoon. However, in 2011 the Pride & Joy Dairy, Toppenish, WA, recalled its raw milk because of E. coli contamination that was discovered during the investigation of infections that hospitalized four children.

Anyone who has consumed raw milk and developed symptoms of E. coli infection should contact their health care providers and tell them of the possible exposure to the pathogen.

“Shiga toxin-producing E. coli infections may cause severe diarrhea, stomach cramps and bloody stool,” according to the recall notice from the company owners.

“Symptoms generally appear three to four days after exposure, but can take as long as nine days to appear. The infection sometimes causes hemolytic uremic syndrome, a serious disease in which red blood cells are destroyed and the kidneys fail. Infants, children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems are especially at risk.”

The Washington state Department of Health notified health care providers and institutions about the raw milk recall Wednesday, urging that all medical staff be made aware of the recall and potential for E. coli infections.

For details about raw milk and potential dangers, as described by the state Department of Agriculture, click on the image.

For details about raw milk and potential dangers, as described by the state Department of Agriculture, click on the image.

“WSDA (Washington State Department of Agriculture) staff intend to conduct recall audit checks,” public health advisor Susan Shelton wrote in an email. “Local Health Jurisdictions in Washington State are not being asked to participate in any formal recall verification activities at this time, but appropriate staff should be aware of the recall.”

The dairy owners and state agriculture department are investigating how the E. coli contamination happened. Raw milk does not undergo the pasteurization process, which automatically kills bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria and Campylobacter frequently found in raw milk.

Washington is one of only 13 states that allow sale of unpasteurized, raw milk at retail stores, but even the owners of the Pride & Joy Dairy stressed the possible dangers of consuming raw milk in their recall notice.

“… the potential health risks are serious. Consumers should read the warning label on the retail raw milk container carefully and ask their retailer to verify the milk was produced and processed by a WSDA-licensed operation,” according to the dairy’s recall notice.

Consumers with questions may contact the company at 509-854-1389.

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