Pride & Joy Creamery, a dairy farm in Eastern Washington state, has recalled its raw milk because it may be contaminated with E. coli, a bacteria that can cause serious illness, according to a news release issued by the state’s Agriculture Department at the dairy’s request.
The raw milk was sold at the dairy’s farm store near Granger in the Yakima Valley and distributed through nine Western Washington retail outlets in King, Pierce, Snohomish and Skagit counties.
Raw milk is milk that hasn’t been pasteurized to kill pathogens from fecal matter that may have contaminated the milk.
According to the department’s statement, Shiga toxin-producing E. coli infections may cause severe diarrhea, stomach cramps and bloody stools. Symptoms generally appear 3 to 4 days after exposure, but can take as long as nine days to appear. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should contact a health care provider.
The infection sometimes causes hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), 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 recall came after some detective work done on the part of the state’s agriculture and health departments.
Tim Church, spokesman for the state’s Health Department, told Food Safety News that since August, there have been four cases of children sickened with E. coli, possibly caused by raw milk. All of the children said they drank raw milk. All were hospitalized, but Church didn’t have any information about whether or not they had returned home. The children live in Western Washington.
“The information gleaned by the Health Department led us to believe there was a good reason to conduct additional testing at the dairy,” said Jason Kelly, spokesman of the state’s Agriculture Department.
The recall was initiated after sampling by the department discovered that the dairy’s milk was contaminated with toxin-producing E. coli.
Pride & Joy Dairy and the department are continuing their investigation into the source of the problem. Along with public health officials, the department is exploring the possibility that some people did get sick from the milk.
Health Department spokesman Church said the department hasn’t yet been able to confirm any direct connection between the sickened children and the dairy.
“We’re looking,” he said, explaining that public-health officials generally interview the sick people — or their parents — to find out what the patients ate and drank before becoming infected with E. coli. Tests are also run to determine the specific type of E. coli the person has been infected with to see if it can be matched with possible sources of the food poisoning.
“It’s like putting a puzzle together,” Church said. “It’s still too early to connect the dairy with any of the cases.”
As part of the search for the cause of the recent E. coli outbreak, the state’s Agriculture Department also conducted an additional inspection at the dairy. During that inspection, minor problems with record keeping and maintenance of the facility’s infrastructure were discovered. Although department official Kelly steered away from discussing the details, he said there’s a “potential for increased risks” when there are problems, even if they’re just minor problems, in a farm’s infrastructure.
Before the farm can resume distributing its raw milk, it will need to demonstrate clean lab results from another sample, said Kelly.
Retail sales of raw milk are legal in Washington state, and raw-milk dairies must be licensed by the state’s Agriculture Department, which involves inspections and testing of the milk.
Washington is one of 11 states in the United States that allows retail sales of raw milk produced by licensed dairies.
But public health officials warn that there are serious potential health risks connected to raw milk. For that reason, Washington’s Agriculture Department urges consumers to read the warning label on the retail raw milk container carefully and ask their retailer to verify that the milk was produced and processed by a dairy licensed by the Agriculture Department.
The label says: “WARNING: This product has not been pasteurized and may contain harmful bacteria. Pregnant women, children, the elderly and persons with lowered resistance to disease have the highest risk of harm from use of this product.”
Pride & Joy’s milk is sold in gallon, half gallon and quart containers. The recalled raw milk was sold from the farm’s store at 2145 Liberty Road in Granger, and from these locations:
2804 Grand Avenue
Everett, WA 98201
18001 Bothell-Everett Suite 109
Bothell, WA 98012
2951 S. 38th St.
Tacoma, WA 98409
2565 S. Gateway Center Place
Federal Way, WA 98003
Skagit Valley Food
202 S. First Street
Mount Vernon, WA 98273
21705 66th Ave.
West Mountlake Terrace, WA 98043
Seattle, WA 98122
26011 104th Ave SE
Kent, WA 98030
Sunshine Corner Nutrition
15220 SE 272th, Suite F
Kent, WA 98042
Consumers who purchased Pride & Joy raw milk with expiration dates of 9/30/2011 and 9/31/11 are urged to return it to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact the company at 509-854-1389.
(Although September has only 30 days, the farm inadvertently put an expiration date of September 31 on some of the milk.)