Posted on September 22, 2006

Organic raw milk recalled, linked to E. coli illnesses

Health officials say illnesses not connected to spinach outbreak

California health officials Friday said three children have been infected with the deadly E. coli 0157:H7 bacteria, and have linked the illnesses to organic raw milk products made by Organic Pastures Dairy Company.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) issued a statewide recall quarantine order of the company’s whole and skim raw milk products after a report that raw milk caused bacterial illness in a 10-year old girl in San Bernardino County.

An investigation by the California Department of Health Services detected two additional bacterial illnesses in children consuming raw milk, one a 7-year old Riverside County boy, and the other an 8-year old San Diego County girl.

Doctors treating the children have identified the bacteria as E. coli 0157:H7, the CDFA said.

“While laboratory samples of Organic Pastures raw milk have not detected E. coli 0157:H7 contamination, epidemiologic data collected by the Department of Health Services points to a link with Organic Pastures raw milk,” the agency said.

Additional laboratory samples of Organic Pastures raw milk are pending.

It is not believed there is any connection with the recent E. coli 0157:H7 contamination in fresh spinach. Typing of lab samples from one of the children shows a different strain than the one found in the spinach outbreak, the agency said.

Of the three afflicted children, one has been hospitalized and released. The other two remain hospitalized.

Stores in California were advised to pull all products immediately from retail shelves. Consumers were told to dispose of any remaining product in refrigerators.

The state also ordered Organic Pastures to shut down production of raw milk for the retail market. The order also affects Organic Pastures’ raw cream and raw colostrum.

The great majority of milk consumed in California is pasteurized. Raw milk is not. Pasteurization eliminates the risk of bacterial illness.

E. coli infection often causes abdominal cramps and bloody diarrhea. There is usually little or no fever, and the illness typically resolves itself in five to ten days. A small percentage of infected individuals also develop hemolytic uremic syndrome, a condition in which red blood cells are destroyed and kidney failure may occur.

Those most at risk for serious complications of this food-borne illness include young children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. Consumers should seek immediate medical care if they develop these symptoms.

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