Campylobacter may have struck yet another raw-milk dairy.
Claravale Farm, one of the two state-licensed commercial raw milk dairies in California, is being investigated for the possibility that some of its milk was contaminated with Campylobacter, an infectious disease that can cause serious gastric problems and in some cases can be life-threatening.
Raw milk is milk that hasn’t been pasteurized to kill harmful bacteria that may be present in the milk. An ongoing Campylobacter outbreak involving product from a Pennsylvania raw milk dairy has so far sickened at least 77.
Claravale Dairy last week voluntarily stopped distributing to the many stores that sell its products, which include cream and raw cow and goat milk. Its distribution area ranges from the Bay Area all the way down to San Diego. However, as of Feb. 17, the dairy had not yet informed its customers, either through its website or its Facebook page, that it had stopped production.
The dairy, which is owned by husband and wife Ron Garthwaite and Collette Cassidy, did not respond to an e-mail and a phone call request for comment from Food Safety News.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control Prevention, unpasteurized milk can become contaminated if the cow has an infection with Campylobacter in her udder or the milk is contaminated with manure.
Matt Conens, a spokesman for the state’s Public Health Department, said the agency is working with local health departments on reported illnesses where raw milk was consumed prior to the onset of illness.
“More than one bacterial agent causing gastrointestinal illness is being investigated, including campylobacter,” he said in an email to Food Safety News. But because the investigation is ongoing, the department cannot provide information about the number of reported illnesses or their locations.
Steve Lyle, spokesman for the state’s Agriculture Department, said in a Feb. 16 email to Food Safety News that the department is aware of the action taken by Claravale and that tests of the dairy’s products are pending. The department is also taking samples from the dairy itself. Results are still several days away, Lyle said, and the department has not taken any regulatory action.
According to information provided by Claravale on a “fact sheet” about raw milk, raw milk can be stored in refrigerators for up to two weeks. This means that customers may still have some of the dairy’s raw milk in their refrigerators.
Claravale Farm, located in San Benito, Calif., has been producing raw milk since 1927. As of September 2011, it had a herd of 65 Jersey cows. It has recently added some goats to its operation. Its website touts its milk as being “entirely natural” and unprocessed. Until this investigation by the state, it has not had a problem with foodborne illnesses linked to its milk.