The statewide quarantine on Organic Pastures’ raw milk and raw-milk products, which was imposed on May 10, has been lifted, with the dairy’s owner, Mark McAfee, joyfully describing that as “breaking news” in a May 17 video on the dairy’s Facebook page.
Raw milk is milk that hasn’t been pasteurized to kill harmful fecal bacteria that may be in the milk.
“We’re excited and happy to announce that . . . our products are now available for sale once again in California,” McAfee says in the video. “We’re working hard to get the trucks and products back to the stores.”
The state imposed the quarantine after at least 10 of the people sickened by Campylobacter in 5 counties in California between January through the end of April reported drinking Organic Pastures’ raw milk prior to becoming ill. None of the patents, whose ages ranged from 9 months to 38, (six of them under 18), were hospitalized, and there were no deaths.
Symptoms of campylobacteriosis, which is the most common foodborne illness in the United States, include diarrhea, abdominal cramps and fever.
In a May 18 press release, the state’s Department of Food and Agriculture said that in testing done earlier in the month, the state’s Public Health Department had isolated Campylobacter jejuni from six samples of the dairy’s raw cream, one sample of raw butter and four samples of cow manure from the milking herd.
Before being allowed to start distributing its raw milk and raw-milk products again, the dairy had to meet all sanitation requirements and comply with the state’s food-safety laws, according to the department’s May 18 press release.
The largest raw-milk dairy in the nation, Organic Pastures near Fresno, has a herd of 420 cows and distributes to stores throughout the Golden State.
In the dairy’s May 17 Facebook video, McAfee says that none of the tests of samples collected from the dairy’s products by the state’s Food and Agriculture Department on May 11 detected any pathogens.
The Facebook page shows the results of those tests, which were released on May 16.
The dairy has a dedicated following. “We’re celebrating with big glasses of milk tonight,” said a customer on the dairy’s Facebook page.
But health officials warn that there are potential harmful effects on human health from drinking raw milk.
In California, state law requires that raw milk and raw milk products shall bear the following warning on the label: “Warning – raw (unpasteurized) milk and raw milk dairy products may contain disease-causing micro-organisms. Persons at highest risk of disease from these organisms include newborns and infants; the elderly; pregnant women; those taking corticosteroids, antibiotics or antacids; and those having chronic illnesses or other conditions that weaken their immunity.”