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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6 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 »

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

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 12:26 am

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

Mr. J. Ingvar Odegaard

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 »