Pasteurization works, and Salmonella is not a magical ingredient of raw milk

My version of the 90-10 rule: 90 per cent of time is spent on 10 per cent of participants, whether it’s hockey parents, graduate students, or public health.

napoleon.raw.milkSo once again, raw milk and cream produced by a Fresno County-based dairy company were recalled Monday due to salmonella, the California Department of Food and Agriculture said.

Salmonella was detected by the CDFA in Organic Pastures Dairy’s Raw Heavy Cream, Raw Whole Milk and Raw Skim Milk with the “USE BY” date of June 1, 2016.

The dairy products should be immediately pulled from retail shelves and consumers are urged to throw out any products in their homes, the CDFA said.

The salmonella bacteria was found during a follow-up test to an earlier recall. On May 9, Organic Pastures Dairy’s products with “USE BY” date May 18, 2016, were recalled also due to salmonella.

Again: Calif. orders recall of Organic Pastures Dairy milk and cream

California officials have issued a statewide recall of Organic Pastures Dairy’s raw milk and cream after routine testing found the presence of salmonella in a sample of raw cream.

picard.face.palmAlthough no illnesses have been reported, state veterinarian Dr. Annette Jones ordered the recall of the Fresno County dairy’s raw milk, raw skim milk and raw cream labeled with a code date of May 18.

The state said Organic Pastures products should be pulled immediately from retail shelves, and consumers are strongly urged to dispose of any product remaining in their refrigerators.

Mark McAfee, owner of Organic Pastures, said the dairy never has tested positive for salmonella, and he suspects the problem may have come from eggs he was distributing for a fellow farmer.

“We have discontinued distributing the eggs, and we are confident the problem has been taken care of,” McAfee said.

Going public: 10 sick with E. coli O157 linked to raw milk in California

Apparently I wasn’t imagining when I wrote the Spongebob cone of silence – usually reserved for leafy greens, cantaloupes and sometimes tomatoes — had finally been lifted on an E. coli O157 outbreak involving raw milk in California.

spongebob.oil_.colbert.may3_.10Organic Pastures Dairy in Fresno County voluntarily recalled its raw milk in Jan. 2016 after internal tests found evidence of E. coli. The tainted milk caused at least 10 illnesses, with six of those victims reporting they drank Organic Pastures raw milk, said California Department of Public Health officials on Mar. 1, 2016.

The victims all had closely related strains of E. coli O157, the health department said.

Dairy owner Mark McAfee said that in early January the company voluntarily recalled the milk within 36 hours of determining the presence of E. coli.

At the time of the last announcement, CDPH types told Healthy Magician the state health department is continuing to investigate the outbreak, but will not provide specific details.

“The environmental investigation is ongoing. CDPH has collected a large number of samples including feces, water and raw milk, which are still undergoing evaluation at the department’s Food and Drug Laboratory Branch,” the CDPH spokesman said via email.

When they are available, the department will not release them until the investigation is finished, the CDPH spokesman said last Tuesday.

The department has not published any statements about the outbreak or investigation.

“CDPH does not routinely post in-process updates on its active investigations,” the department’s spokesman said via email. “If the public needs to be alerted about an adulterated food, CDPH will issue a Health Advisory warning consumers of the food that should be avoided.

colbert.raw_.milk_“In this case, the outbreak was identified and the voluntary recall issued by the firm after the shelf-life of the product had expired. Since no product was believed to remain in the marketplace, no health alert was issued.”

However, legal eagle Bill Marler got his hands on a summary of the investigation dated March 3, 2013. The report concludes:

Evidence collected to date, indicates that cattle in the OPDC milking herd were shedding E. coli O157 that matched PFGE patterns associated with ten illnesses in January 2016. In early January 2016, Cow 149 produced milk contaminated with E. coli O157 which may have been bottled and shipped to the public. Feces, soil, and water collected from OPDC on February 8, 2016 tested positive for E. coli O157:H7, and PFGE patterns for those isolates also matched those patterns associated with the illnesses. The collection of environmental samples from OPDC on February 8, 2016 focused on feces likely deposited on February 6, 7, and 8. It is unlikely that the positive findings from February 8, 2016 represent conditions linked entirely to Co 149. The isolation of E. coli O157:H7 and non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing E. coli from cattle used to produce raw milk for human consumption is concerning and could result in additional illness to raw milk consumers in the future if not addressed at the dairy.

10 sick with E. coli O157: Link to raw milk in California

The Spongebob cone of silence – usually reserved for leafy greens, cantaloupes and sometimes tomatoes has finally been lifted on an E. coli O157 outbreak involving raw milk in California.

colbert.raw.milkRobert Rodriquez of The Fresno Bee reports Organic Pastures Dairy in Fresno County voluntarily recalled its raw milk last month after internal tests found evidence of E. coli. The tainted milk caused at least 10 illnesses, with six of those victims reporting they drank Organic Pastures raw milk, said California Department of Public Health officials.

The victims all had closely related strains of E. coli O157, the health department said.

Dairy owner Mark McAfee said that in early January the company voluntarily recalled the milk within 36 hours of determining the presence of E. coli.

McAfee said the cow had E. coli from a rare form of mastitis, an inflammation of the mammary gland in a cow’s udder.

Once the milk was found to be contaminated, the dairy stopped making milk and recalled the product. McAfee said only two of the dairy’s 40 routes – Northern California and the Central Coast – got the bad milk.

The dairy has since resumed milk production.

McAfee said the dairy has been talking with the families of some of those made ill from the milk. Of the victims – McAfee said there are only five – one is a 3-year-old from Fresno and the other is a 13-year-old from the Solvang area.

The two young victims were hospitalized and later released.

spongebob.oil.colbert.may3.10“We own this,” McAfee said. “We are in discussions over taking care of the medical costs for the child in Fresno and the one on the coast. We take this very seriously.”

McAfee said the child in Fresno drank contaminated milk purchased from the store on the dairy’s property near Kerman.

On Feb. 9, McAfee said, “Our food safety program saved the day. It worked extremely well. We’re proud of that.”

Not sure the 10 with E. coli O157 feel that way.

10 sick with Campy in Calif.; raw milk recalled

Raw milk, raw skim milk (non-fat), raw cream and raw butter produced by Organic Pastures Dairy of Fresno County is the subject of a statewide recall and quarantine order announced by California State Veterinarian Dr. Annette Whiteford. The quarantine order came following the confirmed detection of campylobacter bacteria in raw cream.

Consumers are strongly urged to dispose of any Organic Pastures products of these types remaining in their refrigerators, and retailers are to pull those products immediately from their shelves.

From January through April 30, 2012, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) reports that at least 10 people with campylobacter infection were identified throughout California and reported consuming Organic Pastures raw milk prior to illness onset. Their median age is 11.5 years, with six under 18. The age range is nine months to 38 years. They are residents of Fresno, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Luis Obispo and Santa Clara counties. None of the patients have been hospitalized, and there have been no deaths.

The dairy’s owner, Mark McAfee, says he believes the test results are incorrect. He has requested a hearing with the California Department of Food and Agriculture Friday.

It’s the second recall in six months for the company, which was forced to recall milk contaminated with E. coli in December.

5 kids sick with same E. coli O157:H7; raw milk recalled in California

Raw milk products produced by Organic Pastures of Fresno County are the subject of a statewide recall and quarantine order announced by California State Veterinarian Dr. Annette Whiteford.

Under the recall, all Organic Pastures raw dairy products with the exception of cheese aged a minimum of 60 days are to be pulled immediately from retail shelves and consumers are strongly urged to dispose of any products remaining in their refrigerators. Until further notice, Organic Pastures may not produce raw milk products for the retail market. The order also affects Organic Pastures raw butter, raw cream, raw colostrum, and a raw product labeled “Qephor.”

The quarantine order came following a notification from the California Department of Public Health of a cluster of five children who were infected, from August through October, with the same strain of E. coli O157:H7. These children are residents of Contra Costa, Kings, Sacramento, and San Diego counties. Interviews with the families indicate that the only common reported food exposure is unpasteurized (raw) milk from Organic Pastures dairy. Three of the five children were hospitalized with hemolytic uremic syndrome, a serious condition that may lead to kidney failure.

Surveys indicate that only about three percent of the public report drinking raw milk in any given week so finding 100% of these children drank raw milk and the absence of other common foods or animal exposures indicates the Organic Pastures raw milk is the likely source of their infection.

While laboratory samples of Organic Pastures raw milk have not detected E. coli 0157:H7 contamination, epidemiologic data collected by the California Department of Public Health link the illnesses with Organic Pastures raw milk.

Once again: No nutritional difference between organic and regular food

Organic food is not safer than conventional food. Organic food is not more sustainable than regular food. Organic food is not more nutritious than other food.

Organic is more expensive than other food, and verification of organic production practices is specious at best.

Russ Parsons of the Los Angeles Times figured this out a few weeks ago and wrote a column that began,

"I don’t believe in organics."

This morning he revisited the topic, noted that organics is an article of faith for a lot of people, highlighted some hate mail, and most surprising, revealed that mail supporting Parsons’ column was overwhelmingly positive by a ratio of 5 or 6 to 1.

This afternoon, the U.K. Food Standards Authority released results of a review it commissioned which found,

no important differences in the nutrition content, or any additional health benefits, of organic food when compared with conventionally produced food.

The focus of the review was the nutritional content of foodstuffs.

Gill Fine, FSA Director of Consumer Choice and Dietary Health, said,

“Ensuring people have accurate information is absolutely essential in allowing us all to make informed choices about the food we eat. This study does not mean that people should not eat organic food. What it shows is that there is little, if any, nutritional difference between organic and conventionally produced food and that there is no evidence of additional health benefits from eating organic food.”

The FSA commissioned this research as part of its commitment to giving consumers accurate information about their food, based on the most up-to-date science.

A paper reporting the results of the review of nutritional differences has been peer-reviewed and published today by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Dr Dangour, of the LSHTM’s Nutrition and Public Health Intervention Research Unit, and the principal author of the paper, said:

“A small number of differences in nutrient content were found to exist between organically and conventionally produced crops and livestock, but these are unlikely to be of any public health relevance. Our review indicates that there is currently no evidence to support the selection of organically over conventionally produced foods on the basis of nutritional superiority.”

The Times’ Parsons got it right in his original column when he said,

farming is a complicated enterprise and there is a huge gray area between certified organic and the stereotypical heavy-duty use of chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers.

Furthermore, a lot of the best farming practices of the original organic philosophy — composting, fallowing, crop rotation, the use of nonchemical techniques for controlling most pests — have been adopted by many nonorganic growers, even though they still reserve the right to use chemicals when they think it’s best.

The complete U.K. report is available at

How safe are free-range eggs?

Years ago – before we moved here and put a dog inside – the shed out back was a chicken coop. These were the original backyard chickens. A resurgence of small-flock rearing has led many to wonder (and make assumptions) about the safety of free-range eggs.

Joel Keehn wrote on Consumer Reports’ Health blog this weekend that,

"About a year ago I took my 11-year-old daughter to the emergency room with what turned out to be salmonella poisoning. My first thought when I heard the diagnosis: Did she pick up the infection from our flock of chickens? But the public-health outreach worker at the local department of health said that was unlikely.

"While eggs are indeed a leading cause of salmonella poisoning, the bacteria that causes the infection may be more likely to breed in the cramped confines of factory farms than in free-range, backyard chicken runs like ours."

Oh? That’s an interesting assumption. And Keehn doesn’t provide anything to support it.

As far as I can tell, salmonella contamination of eggs from various farming methods has not been well-researched…save for one study rumored in January 2008 to have been conducted by the UK government that "showed that 23.4 per cent of farms with caged [egg-laying] hens tested positive for salmonella compared to 4.4 per cent in organic flocks and 6.5 per cent in free-range flocks."

The closest thing I could find was a report by the UK Food Standards Agency in March 2004 of testing results of 4,753 containers of six eggs each (with 16.9% from free-range production systems) that found "no statistically significant difference…between the prevalence of salmonella contamination in samples from different egg production types."

Keehn’s blog post concluded by saying,

"By the way, the health department official who called me up said the most likely source of my daughter’s salmonella poisoning was our pet turtle. That critter is now gone. But I’m picking up four new hens from my neighbor down the road later this week."

I have no reason to believe their eggs will be any safer than those of caged hens. Keehn’s reason is not good enough.

Organic crap gets crappier

One of the reasons I don’t buy organic – besides being on a professor’s salary, which I have no complaints about but I’m certainly not going to waste it on organic – is that the so-called claims and rules are followed about as thoroughly as Peanut Corporation of America can pass an audit and end up having 4,000 products recalled because Salmonella makes people barf. Every time someone says, “Organic has strict rules for composting …” I chuckle and wonder about verification.

The Washington Post reports this morning what many have been saying for over a decade – that the sham of organics would eventually be found out.

Three years ago, U.S. Department of Agriculture employees determined that synthetic additives in organic baby formula violated federal standards and should be banned from a product carrying the federal organic label. Today the same additives, purported to boost brainpower and vision, can be found in 90 percent of organic baby formula.

Grated organic cheese, for example, contains wood starch to prevent clumping. Organic beer can be made from non-organic hops. Organic mock duck contains a synthetic ingredient that gives it an authentic, stringy texture.

Relaxation of the federal standards, and an explosion of consumer demand, have helped push the organics market into a $23 billion-a-year business, the fastest growing segment of the food industry. Half of the country’s adults say they buy organic food often or sometimes, according to a survey last year by the Harvard School of Public Health.

But the USDA program’s shortcomings mean that consumers, who at times must pay twice as much for organic products, are not always getting what they expect: foods without pesticides and other chemicals, produced in a way that is gentle to the environment.

The argument is not over whether the non-organics pose a health threat, but whether they weaken the integrity of the federal organic label.

Don’t care about a label. I’m more interested in food that doesn’t make people barf. As far as baby food, I don’t feed any of that organic crap to baby Sorenne, although making such a statement is essentially an invitation to family services to check out my terrible parenting techniques.

My colleague Katija Blaine covered this thoroughly back in 2003.

An episode of the popular U.S. television show, 20/20 in 2000, sparked a fierce debate over the microbial safety of organically grown fresh fruits and vegetables. Are organic foods safer than conventional foods? On the show, correspondent John Stossel concluded that organic produce was no safer than conventional produce and might in fact be more dangerous because of the heavy use of manure in organic farming (Ruterberg & Barringer, 2000). Such statements have been supported by several prominent food scientists (Tauxe, 1997; Forrer et al., 2000) while the organic industry has argued that their strict standards on manure usage reduces such risks (DiMatteo, 1997). The organic industry has refrained from making direct claims of improved microbial food safety. Katherine DiMatteo, president of the Organic Trade Association has stated publicly that "Organic is not a food safety claim" (Juday, 2000)

According to the most recent expert report from the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT, 2002) "the available scientific information is insufficient to ensure that food-borne pathogens are killed during composting and soil application."

Since organic growers already have a certification and inspection system, the CGSB organic standards could be expanded to better incorporate food safety concerns. Specific additions would include ensuring adequate facilities and training to ensure worker hygiene and recommendations for processing and processing water. The documentation, monitoring and regulation of high-risk inputs give organic growers a head start over conventional growers who may be trying to implement an on-farm food safety system from scratch. It is also the responsibility of food producers to use knowledge to aggressively reduce the risk of food and waterborne illness, whether conventional or organic or somewhere in between. And with both conventional and organic systems, verification through microbial testing is required to demonstrate that actions match words.
This is not about organic and conventional. Food safety goes far beyond ideology. As has been stated elsewhere, poor farming and processing practices are the product of poor farmers and processors.

As I said in 2007, the production of safe food is the responsibility of everyone in the farm-to-fork chain — conventional or organic — and food safety, especially with fresh produce, must begin on the farm.


Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB). 1999. Organic Agriculture. National Standard of Canada. CGSB. CAN/CGSB-32.310-99.

DiMatteo KT. 1997. Does Organic Gardening Foster Foodborne Pathogens? To the Editor. JAMA. 277(21):1679-80.

Juday D. 2000. Are organic foods really better for you? Natural grown killers in organic food make it no safer than produce grown in pesticides. BridgeNews Service (Knight Ridder) February, 14.

Ruterberd J and Barringer F. 2000. Apology highlights ABC reporter’s contrarian image. The New York Times August 14. C1.

Tauxe RV. 1997. Does Organic Gardening Foster Foodborne Pathogens? In Reply. JAMA. 277(21):1679-80.

New Canadian organic logo is pornographic?

Raise a butter tart and Molson Export – or Labatt Crystal if you’re into the skid stuff – it’s Canada Day, the celebration of the July 1, 1867 enactment of the British North America Act, which united Canada as a single country of four provinces.

The N.Y. Times has a fun piece of famous ex-pats saying what they miss most about Canada – original Coffee Crisp chocolate bars seems to be the best thing folks can conjure up – but more importantly to some, the new Canadian organic food logo went into effect (below, left, exactly as shown).

Organic is a production standard. Doesn’t mean anything about quality, taste or safety. It’s a marketing concept, but now they have their own label.

All produce will have to be completely organic to be stamped with the logo, while products with multiple ingredients must have 95 per cent organic content.

Farmers who want their produce to carry the new "Canada Organic" label have to apply in writing for certification. The application must include:

* The name of the agricultural product.
* The substances used in its production.
* The manner in which those substances are used.

The logo will also be used on USDA-certified organic products imported from the United States.

Between 70 and 80 per cent of all organic products available in Canada are imported primarily from the U.S., according to government figures.

My group has written extensively about organic and conventional food safety – it’s just not on. There are good farmers and bad farmers, conventional, organic and otherwise.

But this logo? I sent it to a few of my colleagues and asked them what they thought – all the results were too pornographic to publish here. Maybe on twitter.