Australian reporter drank camel milk for a month, here’s what happened

PJ Madam writes: This is a story about camels, their milk, and my bowel moments.

What could possibly be more interesting and attractive?

camel.milkAs a reporter on Sunday Night, I’m encouraged to get involved in the story as much as possible.

In the case of camel milk – all I had to do was drink some, right? Well, drink and document the effects, which has been a little tricky.

See, I’m one of those people who repeatedly test negative to allergies and intolerances.

According to multiple tests, I should be able to digest the main culprits: wheat, gluten, dairy, eggs and nuts.

Yet I’m embarrassed to say, my stomach tells me otherwise.

For the past 10 years, I’ve had a sensitive and weak constitution. I get cramps, sharp pain, bloating followed by the bathroom dramas.

It’s humiliating and frustrating.

Sometimes there’s a pattern. Most times, there’s not.

My doctor strongly believes I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I’ve been asked to have a colonoscopy and urged to try a food elimination diet but make every excuse under the sun to dodge both.

I like so many Australians, just watch what I eat, and put up with the symptoms.

So never in my wildest dreams did I imagine turning to camel milk to help the symptoms.

To me, the whole concept was plain weird.

Who wants to drink milk that comes from a camel?

They spit, they kick, they smell, they grunt and a whiff of their bad breath is enough to make you pass out.

I figured there was no point to investigating the health benefits of camel milk if I wasn’t drinking it myself.

For the past two months I traveled through the Middle East and outback Australia, investigating if the benefits of camel’s milk were fad or fact.

I spoke to many families who drink it to treat their child’s autism or asthma.

One man I spoke to suffers from Common Variable Immune Deficiency and swears by it being a staple in his diet.

The list doesn’t end there. The science behind the milk – known as ‘white gold’ – shows it can also help treat diabetes, cholesterol, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s disease, hepatitis and leaky gut.

camel.milk 2Nearly everyone I met told me it has helped.

It sounded too good to be true. Annoyingly, some were even calling it a ‘super food’.

I was comfortably skeptical.

And that’s when I was given a challenge.

Tucked away among the hills in Perth is Australia’s only camel dairy farmer.

At 70, Chris O’Hora is hilariously inappropriate, very generous but incredibly passionate and knowledgeable about camel milk.

Chris O’Hora sells his camel milk raw, unpasteurized, which scientists say is better for you.

Under Australian law, selling raw milk also happens to be illegal. Chris covers his milk bottles with stickers saying “not fit for human consumption” so it’s my choice whether to drink it or not.

I chose yes. I’d been to Chris’ farm; saw the camels, where they lived, the milking process and hygiene standards so I felt very confident about drinking his milk.

That farm was cleaner than my kitchen.

Also, camels unlike cows naturally carry lower levels of dangerous bacteria that force us to pasteurize bovine milk. Despite this, Chris insists testing his milk every single day. I saw this and was more than confident about what I was about to do.

Australia has the largest population of wild camels in the world but that doesn’t mean they line up and stand still to be milked.

Catching them in the wild is difficult and expensive. Once you have one, they yield around four times less than a cow.

It also costs $25 a litre.

It’s only been 18 years since Odwalla: Cider recall has producer on the defensive

When Amy provides some medical advice, I remind her she’s not a medical doctor or scientist, she’s a doctor of French professoring.

apple.cider.pressSo when a farmer says, one bad batch of unpasteurized apple cider shouldn’t scare the public away from the health benefits of the natural juice, maybe he needs to be reminded he’s a farmer.

E. coli O157 is natural; so is smallpox; I don’t want them.

I’m all for looking for expertise in weird places because we all have our own weird experiences: but that’s not a basis for public policy; scientific experimentation and peer review is about the best we’ve got at this point, although I’m open to any idea.

As the Canadian Food Inspection Agency expands the recall of unpasteurized apple cider products sold at the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market located in Waterloo, Ontario (that’s in Canada), Dale Wilson, the owner of Osoleo Wildcrafters, one of the companies whose locally-made apple cider has been recalled after suspected cases of E. coli poisoning struck three people in Ontario told the K-W Record that it’s an overreaction to suggest people ought to steer clear of raw, or unpasteurized, apple cider. He sells much of his cider directly to consumers at markets who believe the raw, preservative-free version of the juice is better for their health.

“Here’s an accidental situation that happens maybe once a year, and suddenly becomes the hue and cry for shutting down the entire system,” he said. “There’s two sides to this story.”

To its advocates, unpasteurized apple cider is a healthy, natural food product that can help ward off colds and the flu and cleanse the digestive system. Pasteurization kills off the taste and the good bacteria that can help your body, Wilson said.

“The risks are not outweighed by any perceived health benefits,” said Chris Komorowski, food safety manager at Waterloo Region public health.

odwalla.cider.e.coliUnlike unpasteurized milk, it’s legal to sell raw cider in Ontario as long as it’s labelled properly.

Here’s the abstract from a paper Amber Luedtke and I published back in 2002:

A review of North American apple cider outbreaks caused by E. coli O157:H7 demonstrated that in the U.S., government officials, cider producers, interest groups and the public were actively involved in reforming and reducing the risk associated with unpasteurized apple cider. In Canada, media coverage was limited and government agencies inadequately managed and communicated relevant updates or new documents to the industry and the public.

Therefore, a survey was conducted with fifteen apple cider producers in Ontario, Canada, to gain a better understanding of production practices and information sources. Small, seasonal operations in Ontario produce approximately 20,000 litres of cider per year. Improper processing procedures were employed by some operators, including the use of unwashed apples and not using sanitizers or labeling products accurately.

Most did not pasteurize or have additional safety measures. Larger cider producers ran year-long, with some producing in excess of 500,000 litres of cider. Most sold to large retail stores and have implemented safety measures such as HACCP plans, cider testing and pasteurization. All producers surveyed received government information on an irregular basis, and the motivation to ensure safe, high-quality apple cider was influenced by financial stability along with consumer and market demand, rather than by government enforcement.

At least three sick with E. coli O157 in Canada from unpasteurized apple cider

I confess. I experimented with something else while a university undergraduate: unpasteurized apple cider.

powell.kids.ge.sweet.corn.cider.00The ex and I would go to the Guelph Farmer’s Market and stock up, including unpasteurized cider.

After moving to Kitchener (that’s in Ontario, Canada), we would bike with the kids out to the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market in Waterloo, Ontario (that’s also in Canada) on Saturday mornings, buy some local wares, including cider, although we preferred the Waterloo County Farmer’s Market across the street.

By the time we moved back to Guelph in 1997, I’d finished my PhD in food science, and had become exceedingly wary of unpasteurized cider.

So had the U.S. government.

In October, 1996, 16-month-old Anna Gimmestad of Denver drank Smoothie juice manufactured by Odwalla Inc. of Half Moon Bay, Calif. She died several weeks later; 64 others became ill in several western U.S. states and British Columbia after drinking the same juices, which contained unpasteurized apple cider –and E. coli O157:H7. Investigators believe that some of the apples used to make the cider may have been insufficiently washed after falling to the ground and coming into contact with deer feces.

By 1997, one of my first students was working with a cider producer at the Guelph market, who had gone so far as to set up his own microbiology lab at his farm.

20141030ba_1414719717551_engGood for him.

In the fall of 1998, I accompanied one of my then four daughters on a kindergarten trip to the farm. After petting the animals and touring the crops –I questioned the fresh manure on the strawberries –we were assured that all the food produced was natural. We then returned for unpasteurized apple cider. The host served the cider in a coffee urn, heated, so my concern about it being unpasteurized was abated. I asked: “Did you serve the cider heated because you heard about other outbreaks and were concerned about liability?” She responded, “No. The stuff starts to smell when it’s a few weeks old and heating removes the smell.”

Today, Chapman reported that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency noted an outbreak of E. coli O157 linked to unpasteurized cider sold at the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market.

Why CFIA reports an outbreak but relies on Health Canada or the Public Health Agency of Canada to report actual illnesses is baffling. Guess it keeps the different bureaucrats busy.

Fortunately there are a handful of reporters still employed in Ontario, and one at the K-W Record says at least three people have been sickened with E. coli O157 from the unpasteurized cider.

Food safety inspectors are searching across southern Ontario for 2,000 litres of E. coli-contaminated apple cider that’s already made three people ill.

Some of the unpasteurized juice from Rolling Acres Cider Mill, 1235 Martin Creek Rd., near St. Jacobs, is in unmarked, 1.3-litre plastic bags.

local.children.halloween.oct.14A Waterloo health official suspects some of the perishable juice it is already stashed away in household freezers for use weeks or months later.

Health officials are also tracking cider made for other retailers on Oct. 10, which is also likely contaminated with the bacteria that causes brutal stomach upset.

“The tracing is still ongoing,” said Chris Komorowski, food safety manager, at Waterloo Region public health.

Suspect cider pressed Oct. 10 at Rolling Acres has likely been sold as far east as Toronto and west of Waterloo, he said. “It’s all of southern Ontario.”

Rolling Acres is co-operating with the investigation, providing paperwork to track Oct. 10 batches of cider, Komorowski said. Waterloo and federal food inspectors have taken a close look at the apple press operation and found no problems.

“Currently they are meeting all regulatory food safety requirements from both agencies,” Komorowski said. “They’re in full compliance with that.”

The owner of Rolling Acres wasn’t available for comment.

Here’s the abstract from a paper Amber Luedtke and I published back in 2002:

A review of North American apple cider outbreaks caused by E. coli O157:H7 demonstrated that in the U.S., government officials, cider producers, interest groups and the public were actively involved in reforming and reducing the risk associated with unpasteurized apple cider. In Canada, media coverage was limited and government agencies inadequately managed and communicated relevant updates or new documents to the industry and the public.

Therefore, a survey was conducted with fifteen apple cider producers in Ontario, Canada, to gain a better understanding of production practices and information sources. Small, seasonal operations in Ontario produce approximately 20,000 litres of cider per year. Improper processing procedures were employed by some operators, including the use of unwashed apples and not using sanitizers or labeling products accurately.

Most did not pasteurize or have additional safety measures. Larger cider producers ran year-long, with some producing in excess of 500,000 litres of cider. Most sold to large retail stores and have implemented safety measures such as HACCP plans, cider testing and pasteurization. All producers surveyed received government information on an irregular basis, and the motivation to ensure safe, high-quality apple cider was influenced by financial stability along with consumer and market demand, rather than by government enforcement.

4 sickened: apple cider producer faces charges in Michigan year later

A northern Michigan farm owner faces criminal charges after at least four people who drank apple cider got sick.

James Ruster of Mitchell Hill Farm in Antrim County is charged with knowingly making adulterated, or unsanitary, food. Inspectors said his cider equipment was unsanitary and had powell_kids_ge_sweet_corn_cider_00-300x227dried food on it.

His customers got sick a year ago, including three who tested positive for E. coli. Ruster couldn’t be reached for comment Sunday. Someone who answered the phone at the farm hung up during a call from The Associated Press.

A table of fresh juice-related outbreaks is available at http://bites.ksu.edu/fresh-juice-outbreaks.

Unpasteurized apple cider sickens 11 in Johnson County

In 1923, 24 people were sickened with Salmonella in unpasteurized apple cider.

In 1993, 213 people were sickened with Cryptosporidium from unpasteurized cider in Maine.

The complete list is here.

But in the face of fawning N.Y.Times articles that promote food porn powell.kids_.ge_.sweet_.corn_.cider_.00-300x227over safety with cider, it’s expected that outbreaks will continue.

Apple cider – not the hard stuff but the northern version of pressed apples into juice — is suspected as the cause of a food-poisoning outbreak in eastern Iowa.

The Johnson County Public Health Department said Friday that it is investigating a cluster of cryptosporidium infections.

Doug Beardsley, the county’s public health director, said 11 people became ill, including one who had to be hospitalized. All reported drinking unpasteurized apple cider, he said, though it’s not clear if the cider came from a single source.

Beardsley said no new illnesses are cropping up. He said that even if authorities determine who made or sold the cider, his department wouldn’t necessarily identify the business publicly. That decision would be up to the state health department, he said. The state agency often has declined to identify businesses in such cases if outbreaks are no longer spreading.

Cryptosporidium infections have been widespread in Iowa this year, with more than 1,200 confirmed cases. Many of the infections stemmed from contaminated swimming pools over the summer, though authorities have noted that the parasite can also come from contaminated food and from contact, especially in child-care settings. The state health department said only Johnson County has recently reported cases related to apple cider.

 

Raw is risky: unpasteurized apple cider glorified

From the we’ve-always-done-it-this-way-and-no-one-has-gotten-sick files, 78-year-old Doris Van Duyne Heddy Cooke of Montville, NJ, the co-owner of an apple farm and cider press that has powell.kids.ge.sweet.corn.cider.00operated since 1896, told the Times, “Some people come here specifically because it’s not pasteurized. … We have our regulars who come every year, very nice people who keep coming back. They love that our cider is made like it always was.”

A table of fresh juice related outbreaks is available at http://bites.ksu.edu/fresh-juice-outbreaks.

Israelis warned to avoid unpasteurized milk on mouth lesions

Unpasteurized goat milk should not be applied to ulcers of the mouth because of the risk of pathogens such as E. coli, listeria, and brucella.

So says the Israeli Ministry of Health in warning residents to avoid the practice “even if they only gargle the milk without swallowing or only spread it on wounds.”Mouth-Ulcers-Due-To-Diabetes

E. coli cases in Michigan may be linked to apple cider

The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is working with the Michigan Departments of Agriculture and Rural Development and Community Health to determine whether multiple local illnesses may be linked to the consumption of unlabeled, unpasteurized apple cider.

An investigation is underway into a possible link between several E. coli cases and apple cider in Antrim County.

Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) bacteria have been detected in stool samples from several Antrim County residents who developed severe intestinal illness and diarrhea during the past two weeks. Samples have also been collected to determine whether these cases may be linked to unpasteurized apple cider that was produced locally by an unlicensed facility and without the warning labels required by law for unpasteurized products.

According to Joshua Meyerson, M.D., Medical Director for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan, apple cider – whether pasteurized or unpasteurized – should be obtained only from licensed facilities or vendors.

A table of fresh juice-related outbreaks is available at http://bites.ksu.edu/fresh-juice-outbreaks.

Unpasteurized juices still risky

My hockey equipment is covered in pigeon poop.

Or so I’m told by my friend Steve, who has organized pick-up hockey in Guelph for decades, and in whose barn my equipment has sat since 2006.

I never had fancy equipment; I bought my goalie pads off a 12-year-old whose parents were apparently more affluent than I.

But I could sell them for four times their value in Australia, where hockey exists, and Canadians always return with a bag full of gear, because it costs so much less in North America.

With Sorenne about to turn four-years-old, it’s time to introduce her to the ice – and there’s a rink in Brisbane. And with us returning to the U.S. for Dec. and Jan., the time was right to salvage what was left of my equipment and get some stuff for Sorenne.

Steve says he only found one of my skates.

Steve also works in government.

While driving to Florida this week, Steve took some of my equipment to Chapman in North Carolina (or mailed it) because I’ll see Chapman for a meeting about our shiga-toxic producing E. coli research.

While driving down the North Carolina coast, Steve stopped at this roadside market for some ol’ timey apple cider; unpasteurized cider has been the source of many an outbreak of foodborne illness.

Steve thought the name of the market was particularly apt.

A table of fresh juice-related outbreaks is available at http://bites.ksu.edu/fresh-juice-outbreaks.

Finland to OK raw milk sales?

Sales of raw milk have been strictly regulated in Finland due to the risk of bacterial infections, but now the Ministry of Agriculture is preparing an ordinance based on the belief that no restrictions should be placed on milk sales, as long as producers and consumers carefully follow the directives handed down by authorities.

In June, several people fell ill after drinking raw milk bought directly from a farm in south-western Finland. They included a four-year-old who was hospitalized in intensive care.