The showdown in Washington continues between owners of the Pride & Joy raw milk dairy and state officials in regard to pathogens that state inspectors found in the dairy’s unpasteurized organic milk.
Tuesday the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) reported its latest test results, which confirmed Salmonella in the raw milk. Friday the department suspended the dairy’s license to sell unpasteurized milk until further notice.
Dairy owners Allen Voortman, Cheryl Voortman, Ricky Umipig and Cindy Umipig are challenging the state’s laboratory results. Earlier this year when the state found E. coli in their raw, bottled milk, the dairy owners said they are and have been the target of a cooperative effort between state officials and so-called big dairy.
“The WSDA is all over the news that all 4 of the samples they took with the best buy dates of 10/18/17 were positive for salmonella,” the dairy owners said in an emailed statement to Food Safety News on Tuesday.
“We independently tested all 3 of the batches we sent out 9/30, 10/4, and 10/18. All 14 samples were negative for salmonella. This lab has the same accreditation as the WSDA and is ISO/SEC certified and ran the tests according to the protocol that the WSDA gave our attorney. There was no lab in Washington State that would test our milk.”
The dairy owners attached a copy of test results from Udder Health Systems, an Idaho company that provides testing and other services for the dairy industry. The report showed 12 samples, not 14, had been tested. The tests for Salmonella were negative, according to the report.
Despite those findings, the state agriculture department is standing by its report, as well as that of the state’s health department.
“We are aware that they (Pride & Joy owners) have challenged the validity of our testing but we are absolutely confident our results are sound and of course, in this case, the state Department of Health made additional findings,” Hector Castro, agriculture department spokesman, said Tuesday.
“We took four samples on Oct. 2 and just received results. Of four samples obtained, we confirmed Salmonella detected in all four samples collected. These will be submitted to the Department of Health for additional testing. The suspension remains in place. Pride and Joy has been advised of these results.”
The state imposed the suspension of the dairy’s license to sell unpasteurized milk on Friday. The dairy owners were not available for comment at that time.
During the weekend the dairy owners posted a note to customers on their company’s website. As they contended in February when the state agriculture department found E. coli in their bottled, raw milk, the Voortmans and the Umipigs told their customers that state officials are not playing fair.
“There is no lab that the WSDA will recognize besides their own. If they truly cared about public safety, they would make it easier for small farmers to be able to test their products before distributing. They have once again required us to come up with an action plan before they will reinstate us,” the dairy owners said in their Tuesday message to Food Safety News.
The Pride & Joy owners say on their company website that there is no proof their unpasteurized milk has sickened anyone.
However, when the state suspended their license on Friday it cited laboratory tests that showed the rare strain of Salmonella Dublin that was found in the dairy’s milk this fall has the same DNA fingerprint as the strain that infected two people in January. Those people reported drinking Pride & Joy unpasteurized, organic milk before becoming ill.
The incidence of human infections from Salmonella Dublin bacteria has been slowly increasing for decades, but cases remain rare. From 1968 through 2013, Salmonella Dublin bacteria was responsible for one-fourth of one percent — 0.25 percent — of confirmed human salmonella infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control Laboratory-based Enteric Disease Surveillance system (LEDS.)
Pride & Joy owners remain unconvinced that their milk is connected to the infections.
“A sample of milk taken Sept 18th with a October 4th pull date that WSDA originally tested positive for salmonella, they now say to have salmonella dublin. Back in January 2017, the DOH found that two individuals sick with salmonella dublin claimed to have drank our milk. They are now stating that we are somehow connected to two people who were sickened in January from Salmonella dublin,” the owners say on their website.
“… The emotional stress, strain and financial burden has been tremendous to try and prove our innocence. If it were true that we were responsible for making someone sick, it would be a very heavy burden to bear although there is still no proof of this.
“… We will be sending out more information later to those individuals that would like us to email them. We would rather do it that way as the WSDA is quietly watching our page and the media has twisted anything we have said publicly.”
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