The owners of Pride & Joy Dairy have voluntarily surrendered their raw milk license because DNA testing showed that Salmonella infections in people who drank it matched bacteria in the dairy’s unpasteurized milk.

The move by Cheryl and Allen Voortman is a reversal of their plan to fight a license suspension imposed by the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) on Oct. 6. Since February, the couple has repeatedly said there was nothing wrong with their unpasteurized milk and that they were being unfairly targeted. They suggested the “big dairy” industry had influenced state officials.

Top officials with WSDA signed off on the “Final Order” in the licensing proceeding on Monday. The Voortmans had signed the “Agreed Order” on Nov. 2. The couple can still produce milk and they retain their organic certification, Hector Castro of the WSDA’s Administrative Regulations Program staff told Food Safety News on Wednesday.

Neither the Voortmans nor an attorney who has been advising them had responded to Food Safety News’ requests for comment as of 6 p.m. EST today.

Gonzales said the Pride & Joy owners can still sell raw milk to processors for pasteurization and retail sales. The final order only applies to retail sales of their unpasteurized, raw milk. Washington state is one of the few states that allow sales of raw milk by retailers.

“Before the department will approve a complete application for a milk processing plant license at 56721 U.S. Highway 97 in Toppenish, WA, Pride & Joy must submit a written plan of action approved by the department,” according to the order signed by Candace Jacobs, assistant director of WSAD’s Food Safety Program, and Administrative Regulations Manager Elizabeth McNagny.

“Before the department will approve a complete application for a milk processing plant license, … Pride & Joy must submit a written plan of action approved but he Department that contains the following information:

  • Specific investigative steps taken to identify the cause of the presence of pathogens in its finished, bottled retail raw milk product;
  • Specific findings for its investigative steps taken; and
  • Specific corrections Pride & Joy has taken to reduce the risk of producing and processing adulterated retail raw milk products.”

Timeline of events in Final Order
Washington State’s Department of Health (DOH) informed the WSDA on Jan. 27 of two cases of Salmonella Dublin in people who consumed Pride and Joy’s raw milk. (Editor’s note: The dairy’s on-hand milk in February did not test positive for Salmonella Dublin, but it did test positive for E. coli bacteria. Samples of milk consumed by the sick people was not available for testing.)

The WSDA sent a food safety officer to the dairy to secure a sample of Pride & Joy retail raw milk on Sept. 18. The sample was a half-gallon container with a “pull date” of Oct. 4. The sample was sent to the health department’s laboratory for testing. On Sept. 27 the lab determined the sample Salmonella.

The agriculture department also secured four one-gallon samples of Pride & Joy retail raw milk on Oct. 2. The samples had a pull date of Oct.18. On October 9, the health department lab determined the sample contained, Salmonella.

The health department laboratories used pulse-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) to confirm the specific serotype as Salmonella Dublin. Salmonella from the Sept.18 retail raw milk sample is indistinguishable from the Salmonella Dublin isolates detected in lab samples collected from two people who were infected in January.

(Editor’s note: On Sept. 28 the WSDA issued a public health alert about Pride & Joy raw milk because the dairy owners refused to initiate a voluntary recall.)

On Oct. 6, the agriculture department issued a “Summary Suspension” of Pride & Joy’s milk processing plant license.

The health department lab used PFGE to confirm that the Salmonella Dublin isolate from each of the four retail milk samples collected Oct. 2. The isolate “was indistinguishable from the Salmonella Dublin isolates collected and reported by DOH.” The health department informed the agriculture department of the PFGE results on Oct. 20.

On Oct.25 the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its whole genome sequencing test results for the seven total isolates collected during the investigation. The final interpretation provided by CDC indicated that all five isolates appeared to be related “within zero to two Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms.”

Pride & Joy chose to surrender its milk processing plant license in lieu of contesting its summary suspension and a revocation proceeding and signed an agreement Nov. 2.

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