August 9, 2022

Evidence at California Raw Milk Dairy Confirms Link to 2011 E. coli Outbreak

California health officials have confirmed the presence of E. coli O157:H7 taken from various surfaces at Organic Pastures of Fresno County, including two samples that share the same DNA fingerprint as the strain that sickened five children who drank the dairy’s raw milk.

Milking a CowThe outbreak from August through October last year resulted in a state quarantine of raw milk products from Organic Pastures. The ban was lifted December 16 after the facility met all sanitation requirements. Three of the five children who became infected were hospitalized with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a disease that causes kidney failure and can lead to other severe illness including stroke, heart attack, anemia and central nervous system disruption.

The children made sick in the outbreak are residents of Contra Costa, Kings, Sacramento, and San Diego counties.

Patrick Kennelly, food safety chief at the California Department of Public Health, released a letter he wrote this week to Organic Pastures about samples taken from the dairy’s calf area. “The fact that E. coli O157:H7 identical to the outbreak strain was recovered from (Organic Pastures) environmental supports the probability that the (Organic Pastures) raw milk that the case patients consumed was similarly contaminated leading to their illnesses,” Kennelly wrote.

The great majority of milk consumed in California and the rest of the U.S. is pasteurized. Raw milk is not pasteurized. Pasteurization is a process that kills harmful bacteria. In California, state law requires that raw milk and raw milk products shall bear the following warning on the label: “Warning – raw (unpasteurized) milk and raw milk dairy products may contain disease-causing micro-organisms.”

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