SACRAMENTO, Friday, September 29, 2006– The State Veterinarian today lifted a quarantine on raw whole milk, raw skim milk and raw cream produced by Organic Pastures Dairy Co., a dairy farm and processing plant in Fresno County. Organic Pastures has met the requirements of the State Veterinarian to clear its manufacturing operations.
However, the Fresno County Department of Community Health, Environmental Health Division, which oversees farm operations, still has restrictions in place requiring that Organic Pastures raw milk may only be used for manufactured products—such as cheese—and may not be used for Grade-A fluid raw milk and raw cream. To clarify, the lifting of the quarantine does not mean that Organic Pastures raw milk and raw cream will immediately be returning to retail shelves. Until the Fresno County restrictions are removed, the dairy still may not bottle fluid milk and cream.
The Fresno County restrictions on Organic Pastures farm, which are not related to the quarantine, are due to a higher somatic cell count than regulations allow in Grade-A fluid milk. High somatic cell counts are not a human health issue, but affect product shelf life and taste. Fresno County is working with Organic Pastures to resolve this issue as soon as possible.
On September 21, the state issued a recall and quarantine hold of raw milk products produced by Organic Pastures following Food and Agricultural Code sec 9562 and its implementing regulations. This authority requires the State Veterinarian to take action when epidemiological evidence links a danger to health with an animal product.
Experts at the California Department of Health Services (DHS) studied all information available to determine linkages in the cases of four children stricken with E. coli O157:H7 bacterial illness. That information revealed that the only common exposure reported by all four cases was consumption of raw milk or raw colostrum from Organic Pastures in the week prior to symptom onset.
The department, and, separately, Fresno County with respect to farm operations, will continue to monitor Organic Pastures.
California Department of Food and Agriculture Office of Public Affairs
1220 N St., Ste. 214, Sacramento, CA 95814