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 0157, 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.
“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.
Health officials say E. coli can cause abdominal cramps and severe diarrhea, which is sometimes bloody. In children under 5, the infection can cause such complications as kidney failure.
Organic Pastures Dairy is the leading producer of raw, unpasteurized milk in the U.S. It produces 1 million gallons of raw milk a year and has legions of devoted followers. But it also has run into problems. The dairy has been investigated for several E. coli and Campylobacter outbreaks over the years, state health officials said.