Raw Milk Linked to California E. coli Outbreak Recalled

Raw milk linked to a California E. coli outbreak has been recalled. To date, a number of children have been sickened or hospitalized. California Dairy, Organic Pastures Dairy Co., sold raw milk hat has since been recalled and quarantined, said The Associated Press (AP). Three children were so sick they were hospitalized for a condition that may lead to kidney failure.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), raw milk is unpasteurized milk from hoofed mammals that may contain a wide variety of harmful bacteria. It is illegal to sell raw milk for human consumption in 22 states and the FDA bans raw milk sales across state lines. In California, raw milk sales are permitted from two licensed facilities.

E. coli are a group of bacteria found in animal intestines and feces. Some strains are needed for digestion; some are harmful, deadly, toxin producing, and may cause severe diarrhea, stomach cramps, and bloody stool. Most seriously, kidney failure and death may occur. Symptoms generally appear three-four days after exposure, but can take as long as nine days to manifest. The infection sometimes causes hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a serious disease in which red blood cells are destroyed and the kidneys fail. Infants, children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems are especially at risk.

Organic Pastures said testing shows its milk is pathogen-free, and is calling for the quarantine to be lifted. Owner Mark McAfee announced that he will appeal the order put into place by State Veterinarian Dr. Annette Whiteford. Dr. Whiteford is urging the dairy to pull its raw milk, cream, butter, colostrums, and “Qephor,” from stores, said the AP.

This is the second raw milk recall to which Organic Pastures has been subject, noted the AP. In 2006, the dairy was mandated to cease selling its raw milk products after four children fell ill with E. coli; three were hospitalized. In that recall, said the AP, no pathogens were detected at the dairy. Now, Organic Pastures is undergoing a complete inspection and must meet all state sanitation requirements for the quarantine to be lifted, said California Department of Food and Agriculture spokesman Steve Lyle, wrote the AP. Lyle said it test’s the dairy’s products monthly and McAfee said the dairy conducts testing several times weekly with an independent lab, said the AP. Both Lyle and McAfee have said that all samples tested in the investigation have been negative for E. coli, the AP wrote.

The dairy sells about 2,400 gallons of raw milk daily in California and does not ship out-of-state, noted the AP. Earlier this week, the California Department of Food and Agriculture announced the recall and quarantine, but noted that laboratory samples did not reveal the E. coli strain that sickened the children; neither did samples consumed by the children. Regardless, interviews with the families of five children who became ill with the outbreak strain reveal that the one common element is Organic Pastures’ raw milk, said state officials, wrote the AP.

Consuming foods with less processing may appear to present a healthier choice; however, dangers exist when consuming unpasteurized milk and milk products, notes the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Pasteurization briefly heats milk at high temperatures killing most food borne bacteria, is the only method used in the U.S., and considered by the FDA as the most reliable method. For decades, public health authorities such as the FDA and CDC, have expressed concerns about raw milk. Since 1987, the FDA has required milk packaged for human consumption to be pasteurized before being introduced into interstate commerce.

The CDC notes that raw milk or raw milk products were implicated in 85 outbreaks that resulted in over 1,000 illnesses and two deaths in the U.S. from 1998 to 2005. Since all food borne illnesses are not recognized and reported, the actual number associated with raw milk is likely greater.

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