Anyone who has retail raw whole milk, skim milk and cream on hand from Dungeness Valley Creamery should not consume it because samples have tested positive for E. coli, which can cause serious and sometimes fatal illnesses.
The Sequim, WA, based creamery issued the recall Tuesday after routine sampling conducted by the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) revealed the presence of toxin-producing E. coli in retail raw whole milk dated 4/6. According to a recall notice posted by the WSDA, the recalled raw whole milk, skim milk and cream have best-by dates between April 6 and April 20. The recalled product was bottled in gallon, half-gallon, quart, and pint containers and was sold to customers, including retail stores, in Western Washington.
This is at least the fourth time Dungeness Valley Creamery has recalled its raw milk because of contamination issues. The implicated dairy was linked to an E. coli outbreak in 2009 and recalled some of its raw milk in 2013 after state tests found E. coli. In 2018 laboratory tests confirmed E. coli infections in a young child and an elderly person in Washington state who drank unpasteurized, raw milk from the same dairy.
The Dungeness Valley Creamery website did not appear to include information about the April 9 warning. Their Facebook “notice to consumers” says the product in question was taken for sampling along with a sample of cream and skim milk on 3/25 and was received by WSDA’s lab on 3/26.
“We received notification from WSDA that a sample of our milk with an expiration date of 4/6 confirmed the presence of an e. coli STEC. While this batch of product is already past its expiration date we are initiating a voluntary recall of all products with ‘Best By’ dates of 4/6 through 4/20.”
According to dairy owners Ryan and Sarah McCarthey, “We are awaiting a ‘clearing’ WSDA sample result. They will be taking a sample of product today (4/9) and we hope to see results as early as Friday, April 12th, but it could take longer. As soon as we have results we will attempt to distribute to all stores and drop points”
The dairy has voluntarily and temporarily ceased sales at store locations and at drop off points, according to the dairy’s Facebook page. The owners say that the dairy produces about 300 gallons of raw milk every day.
Anyone who has consumed any of the recalled milk and developed symptoms of E. coli infection should immediately seek medical attention and tell their doctors about the possible exposure. Specific tests are required to diagnose E. coli infections. No illnesses had been reported as of yesterday, according to the WSDA.
However, it can take up to 10 days for symptoms of E. coli infection to develop. Consequently, anyone who has consumed the recalled raw milk or served it to their children or others should watch for symptoms in the coming days.
Symptoms often begin slowly with mild belly pain or non-bloody diarrhea that worsens over several days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other symptoms can include severe stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea, and vomiting. If there is fever, it usually is not very high, less than 101 degrees F.
A life-threatening complication — hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) — impacting the kidneys can occur, especially in children. It develops an average of seven days after the first symptoms appear, often when the diarrhea is improving.
State law requires unpasteurized, raw milk and raw dairy products to carry warning labels. State health officials caution that it carries significant risks, especially for young children, the elderly, pregnant and nursing women and anyone with a suppressed immune system, such as cancer patients.
“The potential health risks are serious,” according to state officials. “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 WSDA-licensed operation.”
On the Dungeness Valley Creamery website, the dairy is described as 38 acres of pasture with 60 Jersey cows. It gained state certification as a raw milk dairy in 2006. In their mission statement, the dairy owners cite the motivation behind their business:
“The Dungeness Valley Creamery, a family owned and operated business, exists to honor God through preserving good stewardship of land and cattle. We strive to offer wholesome raw dairy products and a nostalgic ambiance to enhance our communities health, well-being, and life.”
Federal law prohibits the transportation or sale of unpasteurized, raw milk across state lines. Public health officials from the local level up to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have long warned about the risks of contracting infections, viruses, and parasites from unpasteurized dairy products.
It is illegal in many states to distribute or sell unpasteurized, raw dairy products. Some states allow raw dairy sales under certain restrictions, such as cow-share programs that require consumers to “buy” a share of an animal or herd. The participants pay up front to cover their portion of the dairy’s expenses, which entitles them to receive their share of the milk.
Some states, including Washington and California, allow unpasteurized dairy products to be sold by retailers. In such states, there are usually inspection and testing requirements. Washington has such precautions in place. The state also requires warning labels on unpasteurized dairy products.
Over the years, outbreak investigations of illnesses caused by various bacteria and other foodborne pathogens have been traced to unpasteurized, raw milk and other dairy products — such as cheese — that are made with it.
Public health officers, medical organizations, children’s advocacy groups, and numerous scientific, peer-reviewed research projects report no documented health benefits related to unpasteurized milk.
However, raw milk advocates, including the owners of Dungeness Valley Creamery, say raw milk can reduce or eliminate a wide variety of health problems ranging from high blood pressure to diabetes.
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