Published Date: 2006-01-21 23:50:00
Subject: PRO/AH/EDR> E. coli O157, unpasteurized milk - USA (OR,WA)(04)
Archive Number: 20060121.0199
E. COLI O157, UNPASTEURIZED MILK - USA (OREGON,WASHINGTON) (04)
A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases
Date: Thu, 19 Jan 2006
From: ProMED-mail <email@example.com>
Source: The Oregonian [edited]
Laboratory analysis has conclusively linked 18 cases of _Escherichia coli_
[O157:H7 - Mod.LL] illness to raw milk from the Dee Creek Farm in Cowlitz
County, WA, officials said on Wed 18 Jan 2006. All of the victims,
including 3 children once critically ill, are at home recovering, said Dr
Justin Denny, Clark and Skamania county health officer.
Jerry Beundel, a food safety officer with the Washington State Department
of Agriculture, said on 18 Jan 2006 that the DNA "fingerprint" of raw milk
from dairy customers, from the dairy, and from samples swabbed from the
Some patients had started antibiotics when tested because of a delay in
identifying dairy customers involved in the outbreak, Denny said. Cultures
from them were inconclusive, but those cases matched key symptoms from
other dairy customers. 5 patients were hospitalized; the other 13 reported
distinctive symptoms such as bloody diarrhea.
Victims were from Clark and Cowlitz counties in Washington, and Clatskanie
in Columbia County, OR.
Dee Creek Farm is a small unlicensed operation in Woodland, WA. The family
farm also raises sheep, pigs, and poultry. Instead of becoming licensed as
a public dairy, the family sold ownership shares in its herd in exchange
for milk. The owners didn't return phone messages Wed, 18 Jan 2006.
Beundel said his department is approaching the case from 2 directions: a
willingness to work with the dairy on health-related improvements, so it
can apply for a USD 55 state license, and a study to see whether the dairy
should be fined. State law allows as much as a USD 1000 fine per infraction
per day. Denny said he has heard comments that raw milk tastes better and
has more vitamins. "That may be true, but it also is a clear danger,
especially to younger children," Denny said.
Raw milk can contain a variety of bacteria, including the relatively new
strain of _E. coli_ O157:H7, which are destroyed by the heat of
pasteurization, he said. Milk contains minor amounts of vitamin C and
thiamine, which also are removed by pasteurization, but they can be
replaced through supplements, he said.
Among the improvements the state wants at Dee Creek are a concrete floor in
the milking parlor, replacing a muddy rubber mat; running water in the
milking area for hand washing; and an improved area for filtering and
chilling the milk, now done in the family kitchen.
Denny said _E. coli_ can grow "even in a healthy cow, and can be
intermittently shed" via milk or feces. In light of that, Denny said,
"Science says raw milk can't be deemed safe without pasteurization. .. We
were very lucky no child passed away."
[The legal expression of _res ipse loquitur_, which means the thing speaks
for itself, seems to be relevant here. If the same genetically typed
O157:H7 strain isolated from various stops long the transmission highway of
this significant pathogen (cow, milk, consumer) is identified, the path of
transmission is confirmed. Just as it is with the transfusion of human
blood, ingestion of unpasteurized milk is a hazard that can result in
illness severe enough to be fatal.
Fortunately, despite significant morbidity, there were no deaths in this
cluster. Obtaining a license to sell raw milk may legitimize this cottage
industry but does not remove the risk of infection. "Certified"
unpasteurized milk from a "licensed" dairy remains inherently unsafe. It is
certified to be unpasteurized, not to be safe.
Consumers ingesting such a product or feeding it to their children should
be aware of another Latin expression: _caveat emptor_ -- let the buyer
beware. - Mod.LL]