Frisia Dairy and Creamery of Tenino, WA is recalling its raw milk because it may be contaminated with a dangerous strain of E. coli, according to a Jan. 17 news release issued by the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) at the dairy’s request.
The recall, which covers all expiration dates, was voluntarily initiated by the dairy after the department’s routine monthly sampling discovered toxin-producing E. coli in a skim milk sample.
The unpasteurized fluid milk products, including whole, skim, and cream, were distributed through on-farm sales and at eight retail outlets in Lewis, Thurston and Pierce counties.
There have been no reported illnesses related to the recalled milk.
The state’s Agriculture Department said that the dairy has been cooperative and proactive in notifying consumers and removing all fluid raw milk products from retail accounts as a precaution, in case other products might also have been contaminated.
Frisia Dairy and Creamery and the department are continuing their investigation into the source of the problem. The department’s news release said that E. coli was not found in other samples collected at the same time, nor has it been found in previous routine monthly samples collected at Frisia by WSDA.
“Given this laboratory result in the fluid milk, our inspectors will look at the physical infrastructure at the farm and the processes the operation uses to make its foods,” department spokesman Jason Kelly said.
In addition, the department will look at other foods produced by the operation to determine whether there are public health risks associated with those products.
The dairy’s raw-milk cheeses are not part of the recall.
“There are no cheeses subject to recall because there is no evidence at this time that any of their cheeses are contaminated with E coli,” Kelly said.
On the dairy’s Facebook page, customers are encouraged to return any of the dairy’s raw milk they bought for a full refund. They can also call the dairy at 360-264-8668 for more information.
Anita De Boer, co-owner of the dairy with her husband Peter, told Food Safety News that the dairy, which has been in operation for 2 years, had started selling raw milk only 3 1/2 months ago.
Now with the recall coming so soon, De Boer said they have decided not to go on with raw milk.
“It’s heartbreaking to hear the stories of the mothers,” she said, referring to cases of E. coli infection in young children. “It’s not worth it.”
She said that from now on, the dairy will ship its milk to a processor to be pasteurized.
“We realize we took a risk,” she said, referring to the health warnings outlined on labels that Washington state requires to be put on raw milk containers. “We learned our lesson. It (raw milk) is a really good product, but there’s a risk with it.”
She said the dairy will need some time to re-evaluate its plans. At the time of the recall, it had 20 “raw-milk” cows.
“We’ll see what the future brings,” she said.
According to a business brief about locally produced foods in The News Tribune, Peter and Anita De Boer, originally from Holland, settled in southwest Washington and eventually rented a dairy, which is run by Peter and son Peter Jr.
The cows, which are Jersey-crosses, are fed almost all-natural feed and graze on pasture almost year round.
“We take good care of our cows and fields to provide you with honest raw-milk products,” says a statement from the dairy on a raw-milk site.
The family also has a creamery, which Anita and daughter Femke run. Cheese flavors include plain, cumin, red pepper, nettle and fresh garlic. Each cheese is handcrafted with fresh raw milk, free of the growth hormone rBST and antibiotics.
Washington is one of 11 states in the United States that allows retail sales of raw milk from licensed dairies, separate from the farm. It is also one of 8 states that has a coliform standard of no more than 10 coliform bacteria per milliliter, which is equivalent to the national and some international standards for pasteurized milk.
The state’s Agriculture Department says that although retail raw milk is legal to buy and sell in Washington, there are serious potential health risks. For that reason, 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 farming operation licensed by the 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.”
Shiga toxin-producing E. coli infections may cause severe diarrhea, stomach cramps and bloody stool. Symptoms generally appear three to four days after exposure, but can take as long as 9 days to appear. Anyone who drank any of the dairy’s raw milk and who is experiencing these symptoms should contact a health care provider.
Recalled fluid raw milk products from Frisia Dairy and Creamery were sold at the dairy’s on-farm location at 4800 Skookumchuck Road SE, in Tenino and at the Olympia Food Co-op, Yelm Co-op, Mt. Community Co-op, Shop-N-Kart in Chehalis, Olympia Local Foods, Baily’s IGA in Tumwater, and the Tenino IGA.
Other Recent Recalls
This latest recall marks the third recall of raw milk involving dairies in Washington state in the past 4 months.
In November, Cozy Vale Creamery, a licensed Grade A raw milk dairy ( previously known as Cozy Valley Farms) of Tenino, recalled its raw fluid milk products because they may have been contaminated with E. coli. The recall was initiated after environmental swabbing at the facility by the WSDA discovered that locations in the milking parlor and processing environments were contaminated with E. coli.
Three people who had been infected since August with the identical strain of E. coli O157:H7, as confirmed by pulsed field gel electrophoresis, had consumed Cozy Vale products, according to department officials.
In mid-September, Pride & Joy Creamery, a dairy farm in Eastern Washington, recalled its raw milk because it may have been contaminated with E. coli, according to a news release issued by the state’s Agriculture Department at the dairy’s request.
The recall was initiated after sampling by the department discovered that the dairy’s milk was contaminated with toxin-producing E. coli.
Tim Church, spokesman for the state’s Health Department, told Food Safety News that since August, there had 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.
“The information gleaned by the Health Department led us to believe there was a good reason to conduct additional testing at the dairy,” said department spokesman Kelly.
After testing by the department to confirm that the dairies were meeting state requirements for a Grade A licensed raw-milk dairy, both dairies continue to be licensed by the state to sell unpasteurized milk.
For more information about raw milk, go here www.realrawmilkfacts.com.