Organic Pastures Raw Milk Recall – Real Threat Or Witch Hunt?
Monday, 21 November 2011
This weekend I went to the farmers’ market and found the tent where I would buy raw milk from Organic Pastures Dairy completely empty. The woman who normally sells it had set up a table there and was explaining to customers that the dairy had been shut down by the California Department of Food and Agriculture pending a raw milk recall and E. coli outbreak investigation.
Here are the facts:
1. Five people were diagnosed with E. coli infection and were linked because they had all purchased raw milk from Organic Pastures.
2. There was no E. coli strain present in products they had purchased from Organic Pastures
3. Organic Pastures dairy has been tested for E. coli and no evidence of any strain has been found.
4. The CDFA’s claim is simply that because these people had in common that they all consumed raw milk, that must be the source of the outbreak.
For more information:
I do not believe that raw milk is responsible for this outbreak. The FDA has been on a witch hunt to shut down raw dairy production for years. You never hear of such a crackdown on spinach and lettuce or conventional cattle farms, which are responsible for the vast majority of E. coli outbreaks in this country – those recalls are generally voluntary and don’t have quite the investigative urgency as the the race to blame raw milk producers. So far there has been no evidence found that the raw milk is actually the cause of this outbreak, and Organic Pastures has never been found responsible for any E. coli incident, ever. It was linked to a similar episode in 2006 but eventually cleared and the dairy received a settlement from the CDFA for the inconvenience. I believe it will eventually be cleared in this case as well. But it’s too bad I won’t be having whipped cream this Thanksgiving.
Yes, I admit that I have consumed raw milk several times since I have been pregnant, and I have no reservations about it. Organic Pastures follows rigorous standards for cleanliness and their milk is tested twice a week for pathogens. People used to drink only raw milk for centuries, even when pregnant. It is conventional dairy products that need to be pasteurized, due to poor conditions of mass production and longer store shelf life. Of course I take precautions, like keeping it well chilled and consuming it within a matter of days to prevent contamination. And I consume it in moderation. Those who choose to judge me should know that there is a much higher risk of harm from say, getting behind the wheel of a car, than of getting E. coli or listeria from drinking raw milk, which despite all the hype, are extremely rare. (And most of us drive a car almost every day.) For me, the benefits far outweigh the risk. It has already been established that my body cannot digest pasteurized milk – and it is harmful to me and my baby to try to do so. As is not getting the nutrition I need during pregnancy. And calcium supplements are simply not absorbed well by the body without being part of a real food. So I choose to supplement my diet with a variety of digestible real dairy foods including goat cheese, sheep’s milk yogurt, and raw grass-fed cow’s milk.