A Sequim dairy's raw milk was the source of three recent Escherichia coli illnesses that prompted the state departments of health and agriculture to warn consumers about the product's dangers.
The dairy is in full compliance with all regulations, but will be tested weekly instead of monthly through the rest of the year, said Jason Kelly, state Department of Health spokesman.
Jeff Brown, co-owner of Dungeness Valley Creamery, said the E. coli was found in a dried cowpie in a field they hadn't used in weeks.
"If they are looking E. coli in manure, they will find it. I spoke to Claudia Coles at the state health department, and she said our product is legal and safe and there's no recall.
"They can't say it's perfectly safe because it's raw. They never found E. coli in our milk. Ever. Period."
"I want to make clear the farm remains in compliance with all state regulations and has been very cooperative with inspectors during the last three visits.
Illness in September
The first E. coli illness was reported in September and the next two in November, Kelly said.
Nothing connects the three people other than drinking raw milk from the creamery, he said.
"I should be clear too
that the state public health lab cross-matched the person's sample and the farm's, and there was a genetic match."
But Brown said the link was only that they drank the dairy's milk.
"There is nothing conclusive. They are going after the milk but not lettuce, spinach, tomatoes and other products."
Brown also said an attorney who issued his own news releases after the state took action, Bill Marler of Seattle, does not represent anyone and is generating fear, then setting a net for clients.
Kelly said dairies selling raw milk post warning signs, and the product itself has a warning label. That's because even at an even appropriately run dairy there's no guarantee the product doesn't contain E. coli, salmonella, campylobacter and listeria.
Marler said he has worked on food safety issues since the 1993 E. coli outbreak at Jack in the Box restaurants that sickened hundreds of people in four states and killed four children.
The primary cause was adulterated hamburger patties manufactured and sold to the restaurant chain by a supplier.
"We're seeing more outbreaks as raw milk's popularity increases. It's one of those really unfortunate situations that as milk prices have gone down, farmers have looked at alternatives.
"Raw milk is an expensive commodity, selling for $12-$18 a gallon. It's pretty popular, a good way to keep the farm in the black."
This outbreak was small and it sounds like people didn't suffer permanent illness, Marler said.
"This is a warning to producers and retailers that there's a risk there. Proponents say it tastes better and cures things and it's a consumer choice.
"Why a retail outlet would take that risk is beyond me."
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