McAfee Says OPDC Testing Averted Potentially Huge E.coli Disaster

OPDClogoMark McAfee credits Organic Pastures’ “test-and-hold” protocol with having averted a potentially huge  E.coli O157:H7 disaster last month.

As it is, at least four children appear to have been sickened directly by OPDC milk, and possibly two others became ill on a secondary basis (such as from a raw milk drinker spreading the E.coli pathogen).

“There is no question our milk made four kids sick….in a very defined set of time,” he says. Two of the four were hospitalized, and were released in a few days, without having developed the potentially very dangerous hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) complication, he says.

Those children consumed tainted milk that wasn’t immediately discovered via the OPDC testing program in place for E.coli O157:H7—a “false negative,” says McAfee—and was released in early January on two delivery routes. However, when milk from the dairy tested positive for E.coliO157:H7 the next day, it was held back for delivery to stores and farmers markets on 38 other routes, as the dairy voluntarily shut down for two days to track down the problem. McAfee says OPDC services 700 stores and 21 farmers markets.

“Two routes versus forty routes is a massive reduction” in risk, he says.

OPDC informed the California Department of Food and Agriculture about the problem, and the action it was taking. He also did a voluntary recall of milk that had gone out previously. The fact that OPDC acted on its own persuaded the state to refrain from forcing a shutdown.

McAfee says the dairy eventually discovered one cow that he says was shedding E.coli O157:H7 “from inside her udder” into the milk. The cow was born and raised at OPDC, so the problem can’t be explained as coming from another dairy.

The notion of E.coliO157:H7 being shed directly into milk is a new, and potentially alarming, one in the world of food safety. Indeed, it hasn’t been proven scientifically, and one food safety expert I contacted said that “proving” udder shedding would require a necropsy and culture of the udder; this expert says it has to be assumed at this point that  the positives are from the teats and environmental contamination from feces or bedding, and that E. coli movement into the teat (not down from the udder) has not been ruled out.

McAfee thinks recent heavy rains, in December and January, could have contributed to the pathogen problem. Also, the cow in question had just recently given birth. In any event, OPDC is increasing its pathogen testing frequency as a result, he says.

Since the state doesn’t divulge names of people who are sickened by tainted food, McAfee is asking anyone who may have been sickened to get in touch with him, He has already compensated one family for its medical expenses.

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22 Comments on "McAfee Says OPDC Testing Averted Potentially Huge E.coli Disaster"

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mark mcafee
mark mcafee
February 11, 2016 8:55 pm

David, Thank you as always for your coverage of our story. The entire event was chronicled for the benefit of the LISTED RAWMI community last week. I want all raw milk producers to know about our experience and be able to include this experience in their tool box. I even invite raw milk consumers to know what producers go through to provide this whole food to them. It just does not magically appear in their refrigerator. In spite of the obvious liability, we must stand up and take this on personally. We did nothing wrong, in fact, we did everything… Read more »

Today 9:33 am

@ Mark,

In 2008 there was a listeria outbreak in Massachusetts that resulted in three deaths. News articles said, “Tests at the Whittier Farms plant found nothing wrong with its pasteurization process, deepening the mystery.”

I wrote to Whittier Farms suggesting they test milk from individual cows to determine whether one of them was a bovine Typhoid Mary. Whittier Farms did not respond so I assume they ignored my suggestion. The 300 cow operation was eventually shut down permanently as the source of contamination was never found.

Today 2:40 pm

How would a Typhoid Mary or a similar healthy carrier be treated today?

Molly Malone
Today 10:28 am

Mark, Thanks for your comments here. My family and I have been drinking raw milk for several years now, and I am somewhat informed on these issues, but I am always seeking to learn more. In a nutshell, I am a mom who just wants to provide healthy, whole foods for her family, and have as many of my grocery dollars going to local farms as possible. I realize there are risks with raw dairy, and that steps must be taken to reduce those risks. I also realize the incredible nutritional benefits of raw milk, a major reason we drink… Read more »

Today 11:35 am

I guess the process is somewhat simplistic. Please correct if I am getting this wrong Mark. From what I am reading, the way authorities associate causation when illness is reported is primarily through presentstion and a sample. Such as a stool sample. At the same time Labs are required to notify the state of any positive results, in addition producers are also required to do so. Where the pathogen is declared positive and the ill consumer has had some association with it, it is concluded to be the source. But , considering that only 4 people are associated in this… Read more »

February 11, 2016 8:56 pm

Now I am confused. I would have thought that batch testing would actually eliminate all possibility of tainted milk being released to the public. Please tell us more. Admittedly I was a bit taken back how candidly the discover of 0157 was presented, in particular the certainty by which it was presented to have come from within the udder of one cow. It seemed premature. How does this reflect on the utility of monthly testing , when a positive 0157 could mean that for the last thirty days any number of consumers, that did not pastuerize their milk, could have… Read more »

Gordon S Watson
February 11, 2016 10:24 pm

if “…. any number of consumers, that did not pasteurize their milk, could have gotten seriously ill?” [ sic]
… to which I say : If anyone else had been made ill, wouldn’t we know about it? We sure would >>>> guys like you’d be blazing the Other Side of the Story to the skies, wouldn’t you?!. But your insinuation is the classic canard of an argument from silence >>>>>>>> one more strand of circumstantial evidence that you’re a troll

Today 8:02 am

Gorden , if there is any trolling here it’s you. I am not on a side, and you can just own that for yourself.

There is a general way in which phenomina is studied , and more then often it’s not publicized before things are better known. Because it reflects upon the industry, unless of course that is the entire point. And it’s not clear here

But thank you for your attempt to discredit my input

Gordon S Watson
Today 3:03 pm

someone commenting on this website, suggesting that afficionados of raw milk ought to cook it, before drinking it … as was posted on Feb 11th = hidden behind the mask “OtherSide of the Story” = is … putting it kindly … “unclear on the concept”. But I don’t believe that. There is most certainly is a time and place for intelligent scrutiny, but your pessimism gives you away. Having participated on various raw milk fora, for (nigh-on 10 years) the pattern of your posts tells me you’re here to pollute the discourse, not for offering genuine constructive criticism.

Today 3:19 pm

What discourse is that? The anti establishment flag waving, my way is the right way kind? Are you not the same Gorden that was selling raw milk as cosmetics?

I don’t care if people boil their milk or not, that is their choice and freedom.

But instead of simply attacking me, how about the point itself?

mark mcafee
Mark mcafee
Today 12:16 am

Think of testing as a verification step and part of a complex RAMP model. Not a simple answer or cure all promise. Here are just a few variables for testing: The density or the log number of the pathogens in the tank The volume of the tank size The homogeneity of the distribution of the pathogens The number of tests or samples used to find that pathogen….the more used the better…but more $ The accuracy and sensitivity of the test system Many other factors…. Pathogen testing a bulk of milk is not a perfect test. It is however a very… Read more »

Today 9:20 am

For $39,000 is it not worth it to just buy the BAX PCR system for in house testing ? It seems to me that covering the costs of just one related illness might be that much in the USA.

And with a $6,000,000 operation the cost per litre for some dalitsl investment is quite minimal.

Today 10:12 am

Mark, I suspect the size of the sample tested vs the size of the tank might also be important. I’m trying to decide if taking multiple samples and pooling these for a sample will really help. My guess is if you collect multiple samples, then these might be of more help if you test each one separately. Also, does the PCR have a control for a failure to amplify (i.e. the test appears negative,and the PCR amplified a control template to prove the reaction worked as expected)? Thanks.

Today 11:20 am

Interestingly , there is sexually transmitted disease where the technology has advanced. The technology is actually too sensitive and in many cases is giving people false positives. Leading to huge relationship upheavals and divorce. Only to discover that it was not spousal cheating, but actually a hypersensitive testing procedure, and now before proceeding to inform patients many labs are follow up testing with culture growth confirmation

Today 12:26 am

Here is my bottom line:
Does the administration of antibiotics = gross medical malpractice?

Mr. J. Ingvar Odegaard

Today 2:36 pm

Ingvar, your question about antibiotics makes me wonder about what is the proper treatment for shiga toxin producing diseases. I’ve been consuming raw kefir for 15 years and homemade raw sauerkraut for 8 years, so I hope my gut microbiome is healthy. But my milk has come from 1 or 2 cow families that do not do any testing, so it seems possible I could contract a pathogenic disease from my kefir. So can anyone offer advice on what to do if one suspects exposure to E.coli O157:H7 or campylobacteria or some other pathogen? I live in Nebraska where doctors… Read more »

mark mcafee
Mark mcafee
Today 1:30 am

David, One clarification. There were a total of six matching PFGE signatures in the state of CA data base in mid- January. Only four said they had consumed raw milk from OPDC. The other 2 completely denied drinking OPDC or any raw milk. All of these PFGE signatures came from different families and locations. It is not suspected that any ecoli cases came from interpersonal contact. 2 of the six were reported to have spent any time in a hospital. All are reported to be free from HUS injury according to information made available to us. At one point, my… Read more »

Today 1:46 pm

Do you have any information about how long any of the 4 OPDC-milk drinkers with a matching PFGE signature had been drinking raw milk, whether from OPDC or another source? Did any of the 6 with a matching PFGE signature have other health conditions or take medication of any kind?

mark mcafee
Mark mcafee
Today 10:30 am

Whittier Farms was most probably a post pasteurization incident. That’s why they could not find anything wring with their process. It was also chocolate milk. Improper heating of all the milk when mixed with other ingredients always is an issue to think about. Listeria comes from environmental contamination inside of the creamery after processing. Listeria is not an issue found inside of cows or in milk barns ( generally ). Listeria loves a vacume where good Bactera are missing…..where it is cold and there is plenty of food. Pasteurization plants use all sorts of cleaning chemicals that make them prone… Read more »

Marietta Pellicano
Today 11:24 am

Thank You, Mark, a thousand times over! You truly are THE Premier Dairy Farmer not just in our State of CA, but the entire country! No government entity would go to the trouble DOING what you do so that farmers could provide this “white gold” nutrient dense product that so many of us obviously want to have in our daily diets. We are so grateful to you for ALL your labors, and I am so happy to hear that those children came through this OK. Also, thank you for your open and honest report regarding this issue and surrounding events.… Read more »

Mary McGonigle-Martin
Today 2:23 pm

The latest information on the OPDC outbreak–2 with HUS. See Bill Marler’s blog.

Today 4:38 pm

I don’t get the “udder” part of the story. Does OPDC have the tech to come to that conclusion? The timeline of the positive testing onsite isn’t really clear either — Did the positive come after both deliveries? Between? It sounds like regardless that there were two “false negatives” but last I checked there was no approved rapid testing for O157:H7 for milk anyway.