A day after proclaiming it would continue to sell its unpasteurized bath milk following the death of a three-year old boy, Mountain View Farm is now urgently recalling the product.
Of the four other children – all under five-years old who were sickened, three developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) and one cryptosporidiosis.
The recall comes after the case was referred to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which said the milk had been recalled due to “a number of recent health concerns” in young children who consumed the milk, and is sold in one and two liter containers.
The ACCC said it would also lead a national investigation of consumer law regulators into possible breaches by suppliers selling raw milk as a cosmetic product.
“The message from health agencies is clear: do not drink unpasteurized milk,” ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said. “If you have this product, do not drink it in any circumstances. Return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.”
Authorities have expressed frustration with current regulations allowing the sale of unpasteurized milk in Australia because technically it is not being sold as food.
Dr Rosemary Lester, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer said she had written to Victorian Consumer Affairs and the ACCC about the issue.
“This is correctly labeled as not [for human consumption], so it’s in the domain of consumer law, not food law,” she said.
Vicki Jones, the owner of Mountain View Farm, said she drank the milk herself, but her product was clearly labeled as not for human consumption.
“We label it as bath milk, for cosmetic use only, not for consumption. It’s quite bold, so it’s easy to see,” she said.
“I drink it, but it is a raw product, I can’t say that it’s safe to drink.”
But Ms Jones said the company would change its labels to make them even clearer.
“What do I say to [the people who drink the milk]? It’s clearly labeled. At the end of the day what they do with the milk after they purchase it is their choice,” she said.
“Whether they listen to me is out of my hands. … We would probably just put the link to the Health Department website or print what their warnings are.”
Ms Jones said she was aware of the incident and had been contacted by health authorities following the death of the child.
“Apparently [the child’s family] had purchased our milk, but I have been told the child had been previously seriously ill and that he had passed away, and that he had consumed our milk,” she said.
“The health department had taken samples of our milk [for] Salmonella, E. coli, dysentery and all the results have come back negative, or not detected.”
She also said her company ran their own tests on the milk every week for bacteria and it always came back negative.
In a Facebook post on Thursday, the company lamented, “waking up to the disgusting front page of the Herald Sun” on Thursday.
“Shame on the reporter and the people that were behind that piece of rubbish that was written. …
“To the health department, you have opened a hornets nest, not for raw milk, but for exposing the garbage that consumers are fed, the chemical laden pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics that are used to grow food to feed families.
“Shame on the system that allows this, shame on Food Safety standards, that permit and make up the levels they deem safe. Look at how many people are sick, why our hospitals are overflowing.
“Why is good quality food so expensive and out of reach of young families on low wages, the very people that need to feed our future generation.”
The organic farm has previously mocked the U.S. food authority for labeling unpasteurized milk as unsafe.
A photo shared by the Facebook page of the business on November 20 implies the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorizes the use of harmful substances while wrongly demonizing raw milk.
Jones defended using the image on her Facebook page, saying she questioned many substances in foods and the FDA should do the same.
Asked whether the image was misleading because of what it implied about raw milk, Jones said: “Maybe the FDA need to revisit the use of chemicals in food.
“I question the use of some chemicals used in food production and the effect it has on children.”
Some people took to the Mountain View Facebook page to criticize the company following news of the child’s death. “Where is the warning that you claim is on your Facebook page against drinking raw milk,” one person wrote.
Others defended the company, describing the media coverage as a “witch-hunt.”
David Tribe, a University of Melbourne professor and friend of the barfblog.com, collected several images from the Mountain View web site, which are included here.
Dr. Lester said she was worried unpasteurized milk was intentionally being given to children despite being labeled not for human consumption.
“There are two issues that concern me – one is the movement out there that people think that something raw is wholesome and better for you, which is clearly not the case,” said.
“Secondly was the potential for confusion with milk that really is for human consumption, given these products are being sold alongside milk for human consumption.”
It was not clear whether the child in this particular case was intentionally given the raw milk.