Raw milk products produced by Organic Pastures of Fresno County, with the exception of raw colostrum, have been released from a statewide quarantine that began Nov. 15. CDFA imposed the quarantine in response to notification from the California Department of Public Health connecting E.coli O157:H7 food-borne illness to the dairy.
The facility was required to meet all sanitation requirements and comply with food safety regulations under state law before the quarantine could be lifted. During the quarantine, the facility was prohibited from producing raw milk products for the retail market. The order affected milk as well as raw butter, raw cream, raw colostrum, and a raw product labeled “Qephor.” At this time, the quarantine hold on raw colostrum remains because it is the subject of continuing investigation by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA).
The Department of Public Health identified a cluster of five children who were infected, from August through October, with the same strain of E. coli O157:H7. These children are residents of Contra Costa, Kings, Sacramento, and San Diego counties. Interviews with the families indicate that the only common reported food exposure is unpasteurized (raw) milk from Organic Pastures dairy. Three of the five children were hospitalized with hemolytic uremic syndrome, a serious condition that may lead to kidney failure. There have been no deaths. The findings that all of the children drank Organic Pastures raw milk and that this was the only common exposure among them established the dairy as the likely source of the illnesses.
The great majority of milk consumed in California 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. Persons at highest risk of disease from these organisms include newborns and infants; the elderly; pregnant women; those taking corticosteroids, antibiotics or antacids; and those having chronic illnesses or other conditions that weaken their immunity."
Symptoms of E. coli O157:H7 infection may include abdominal cramps and diarrhea which is often bloody. Most infected people recover within a week; however, some may develop complications that require hospitalization. Young children and the elderly are at highest risk for a potentially life-threatening complication known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which includes kidney failure. People who develop symptoms of E. coli O157:H7 infection after consuming unpasteurized milk or milk products should consult their health care provider. Physicians who have patients suspected of having HUS or E. coli O157:H7 infections should report them to the local health department.