- Asserting on Facebook that they have been "targeted again," the owners of Pride & Joy Creamery in Granger, Washington declined to voluntarily recall products produced between September 13-28, despite the Washington State Department of Agriculture finding salmonella bacteria in a raw milk sample from Sept. 18. On Sept. 28, the department issued a public health notice advising people not to consume the dairy's products.
- The owners wrote in their Facebook post that they had contacted distribution points and asked them to pull any milk with an Oct. 4 date for a full credit. They also said they would be producing their organic, grass-fed milk as usual while continuing to investigate the situation.
- Pride and Joy shut down for three months this past spring after issuing a voluntary recall. The state said two people who reported drinking the dairy's products had contracted salmonellosis, although no definite link was established. The state also reported finding E. coli in samples from the dairy, which the owners disputed. During the shutdown, the owners said remediation measures were implemented at the facility to reduce the chance of contamination.
While it is legal to sell unpasteurized milk at retail in Washington and 12 other states, the controversy around doing so never seems to go away. Dairies that don't pasteurize their milk products are on the defensive to prove their products are safe, while regulatory agencies continue to warn raw milk consumers of the potential for illness and even death.
Consumers who seek out raw milk seem dedicated to the product, which they claim is fresher, tastier and healthier than pasteurized milk. The public health community, however, insists that eating or drinking raw milk products is playing Russian roulette with your health.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 96% of all foodborne illness from dairy products comes from raw milk and cheese. Getting sick from raw milk can mean many days of diarrhea, stomach cramping, and vomiting, CDC states. Some people who drank raw milk have developed severe or even life-threatening diseases — including Guillain-Barré syndrome, which can cause paralysis, and hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can result in kidney failure, stroke, and even death, the agency notes.
The latest statistics from CDC show that between 2007-2012, the incidence of raw milk-related illnesses has increased as more states allow it to be legally sold. During that period, 26 states reported 81 outbreaks linked to raw milk, causing 979 illnesses and 73 hospitalizations. Most illnesses were caused by campylobacter (81%), followed by shiga toxin-producing E. coli (17%) and salmonella (3%).
Raw milk dairies often have little confidence in state and federal regulators, whom they tend to view as persecuting them in the normal pursuit of their chosen business. The Pride and Joy Creamery owners have cast doubt on the state's recent report of a positive salmonella test result, asking the department what type of test was used and about the chain of custody for the sample. They also questioned the earlier E. coli results. They maintain that they regularly test and carefully monitor their own products for potential contamination.
State and federal food safety regulators can't order a recall without absolute proof that a given product made someone sick, so if a brand won't voluntarily do so, no recall occurs. Meanwhile, production goes on, and the Pride and Joy Creamery owners say that the continuing demand for their product is what keeps them in business.
"Our customers are the reason we keep fighting the exhausting battle," they wrote in their Facebook post. "We are truly grateful for each and every one of you."
Unless a definitive link can be established between the dairy's products and a reported illness, this standoff is likely to continue, as will the starkly divided viewpoints between those who support raw milk and those who don't.