Saturday, January 21, 2012

Organic Pastures Dairy Company, Raw Milk Kefir, and E.coli 0157:H7

After reading The Complete Patient blog, Mary Martin, whose son was sickened with e.coli 0157:H7 in 2006 after drinking raw milk from OPDC, is turning into a real hero in my eyes. If you make it to the end of this post, you will see why.

Here is what I wrote when I found out the news:

"I for one, am extremely pissed off by the news coming out of OPDC today and I don't know how to reconcile my feelings in the moment, but I will try:

When I first started WAPF, everyone glorified the benefits of raw milk and perpetuated the myth that pathogens cannot grow in raw milk and hence it is inherently safe. You know, the whole Sally Fallon real milk website idiocy. I was skeptical. I did not "drink the raw milk koolaid" for over a year or so.

Then, I got pregnant the second time around. I turned to WAPF guidelines and started making raw milk kefir. I thought, critical thought and cynicism be damned, my body NEEDS this stuff to make a healthy baby. I even made kefir smoothies with raw egg yolks. I got the vomit/diarrhea flu 3 or 4 times that winter, a record for myself. I thought it was so strange that I got the flu so many times.

Then I read that the kids who were most sickened had raw milk kefir made at home. That could have been me, pregnant, immune functioning lowered and in the hospital and possibly having a miscarriage because of it.

Have a little f-ing empathy for the victims here, you raw milk advocates!!! Seriously."

After reading Gumpert's latest post about the e.coli in the OPDC milk issue, I decided to do some digging to get to the bottom of who has said what about raw milk and fermentation/making kefir as it relates to the food safety. Quite quickly, I found the comment section discussion on Bill Marler's blog and reading it in hindsight is extremely EERIE.

I sure wish the mother of the two children who ended up hospitalized had had this information before she made raw milk kefir from OPDC milk. Not that she is at fault in any way. She was following the directives of the likes of WAPF or Sally Fallon I am sure.
How do I know there is a mother out there who had BOTH children sickened by OPDC? Mark McAfee's words are a real work of art. He discusses a private conversation on a public forum:
"I spoke at length with the mom with the two most sickened children. They were both from the same family. She and I are working closely on a very constructive path for improved consumer education. She and I both felt better after our very open and exposed discussion. I learned a boat load from her. She had previously been a close WAP follower and believes in the value of whole food nutrition. I am dedicated to protecting her family from further injury or criticism....she will remain nameless. I am dedicated to her protection and want to help her family become whole again. I want more than know how in the hell bacteria from our calf area became connected with five With all bacteria samples being negative from every place and very

There are massive questions remaining. How do 60,000 people not get sick for three weeks in a row and the then one gets sick and the three more weeks pass with no illness. Then a family with 2 kids sick ( the most ill ) had consumed fermented raw milk with an unknown culture in an unknown kitchen brew. Then the family also consumed raw whey fermented vegetables....was there salt in the whey mix???"

David Gumpert said:
"On the matter of fermenting the milk to make kefir or yogurt, lots of consumers do that. Is McAfee suggesting people shouldn't do that, or that it should be done "at your own risk"?"

Jennifer Feiney said:
"I don't think Mark is suggesting that cultured milk products are inherantly bad. I have known that the harmful bacteria often survive in acidic environments (that is why stomach acids don't destroy them). That is why I choose to pasturize my cultured milks and soft cheeses."

Reading up on this subject, I found this article on the Marler blog.

Now, Mark McAfee is the head of OPDC and RAWMI. Bill Anderson is on the board of the RAWMI along with, David Gumpert, the author of The Complete Patient blog. What is RAWMI? From their website: "Headquartered near Kerman, California, in one of the top dairy and agriculture centers in the world, the Raw Milk Institute (RAWMI) provides training and leadership through its common standards to safely guide the growing raw milk market. The process involves scientific research, farmer training, the publication of listed farmers’ test results, and continuous education."

Here's the conversation, a little eerie really:

Mary McGonigle-Martin - July 20, 2011 6:43 PM
Bill Anderson,

What are your thoughts on grass fed raw milk gently pasteurized at home with a double boiler? How damaged is this milk? We cook other foods and they are still considered healthy. Why would it be different for milk?

Bill Anderson - July 20, 2011 8:33 PM


Coli in milk:
(there are many more studies similair to this one)

However, I can address the issue of home pasteurization.

Firstly, legal vat pasteurization requires that the airspace of the vat be maintained at least 5 degrees above the legal pasteurization limit for the entire duration of pasteurization, using culinary-grade steam. (Believe it or not, I am trained and licensed to pasteurize milk by the state of Wisconsin). In case there are particles of the raw milk that splashed onto the upper side wall or cover of the vat, this is to ensure those are pasteurized as well so they do not re-contaminate the milk after pasteurization. It would be very difficult to do this properly on the home scale.

Secondly, complicating the home pasteurization would be the ability to rapidly cool the milk after pasteurization. If contaminants (such as those mentioned above) make their way back into the milk while it is cooling, they will have free-reign over the milk since you have just destroyed all the natural flora of the milk. Since it is difficult to rapidly cool milk on the home scale, there is ample opportunity for these contaminants to grow. (You may have been better off just leaving the milk raw to begin with...)

Thirdly, I think that the term "gently pasteurized" is problematic. I actually think that HTST pasteurization (161.5F for 15 seconds) is preferable to vat pasteurization (145F for 30 minutes) because of the extended hold time in the latter. While both are equivilent in their logarthmic destruction of pathogenic organisms, from a quality standpoint the proteins in the vat pasteurized milk are more damaged.

Finally, speaking as a cheesemaker, pasteurization limits are fairly narrow. If you cook milk above 180F, you denature whey proteins which fundamentally alters the way that the milk thickens and coagulates. I can't speak to the nutritional properties, but I can say that this milk will never make good cheese because the whey proteins are now unfolded and bound to the casein (curd proteins) preventing good seperation of curd and whey.

The preferable option is to get good clean tested & certified raw milk from your local grass-grazed dairy farm. If you want an extra measure of food safety, turn it into kefir or yogurt and then age it for a few days in the fridge. The acidity and competition from beneficial lactic-acid producing bacteria will render the milk safe in the off-chance that any small quantities of pathogens are initially present.

Mary McGonigle-Martin - July 20, 2011 8:56 PM


If milk was pasteurized in a double boiler at 161.5 degrees for 15 seconds, placed in glass quart size canning jars, and then put in a metal tub filled with ice would this cool the milk rapidly enough? Also, would you consider this damaged milk in regards to the protein structure?

Another question, when yogurt is made, what degree is it heated to and for how long?

I'd love to see a study done on kefir and yogurt to see if it does 100% kill pathogens.

mark mcafee - July 20, 2011 9:05 PM

I agree with Bill Anderson 100%. Culturing is a far better and more probiotic method to use than to pasteurize. The acidification, colonization, competition and other fermentation chemistry has been used for thousands of years. In fact history shows that most civilizations that drank rawmilk, drank as a fermented clabber... available refrigeration. We are spoiled in first world countries and like are cereals etc.

I love my raw milk. I am also spoiled. I have 2000 gallons of it every day at the OPDC creamery 1400 feet from my house. We provide this non allergenic, easily digestible food to about 65,000 people every week in CA. 400 stores carry the product and more demand is measured every day.

There are truly Two Raw Milks In America.

The Milk Pool milk that has up to 750 coliforms and god knows how many pathogens and up to 100,000 SPC ( all of this as measured at the dairy milk tank and gets much higher at the creamery tank)

The Other Raw Milk that is for Direct Human Consumption with less than 10 coliforms, less than 15,000 SPC per ml and zero pathogens allowed ever and this is in finished product tell me there is only one kind of RAW MILK in America....

Clearly, there are state laws that define these two raw milks. If you deny this, then I have a captive space alien that I would like Anderson Cooper to interview.


Bill Anderson - July 21, 2011 6:57 AM


Well, speaking from experience canning things other than milk (salsa, pickles, etc...) you never want to put a glass mason jar full of hot liquid into an ice bath. The temperature differential will cause the glass to shatter.

If your only goal with home pasteurization is to render the milk safe to drink, I'd say you don't need to worry about the narrow limits of industrial pasteurization to prevent excessive protein denaturation. The better option is just to start with clean raw milk to begin (SPC less than 15,000/mL and coliform less than 10/mL) with and then culture it with a measured dose of robust beneficial lactic-acid producing bacteria. Many industrial yogurt producers will cook the milk up to 180F to denature whey proteins, but this is a modern practice and not the traditional way that yogurt is made.

Here is more interesting information about how lactic cultures kill E. Coli:

Mary McGonigle-Martin - July 21, 2011 8:22 PM

Thanks for the information Bill. I wish all three had the actual journal article sited.

Bill Anderson - July 23, 2011 8:41 AM


It looks like the story on the CNN website also appear on a Marler-Clark blog:

Mary McGonigle-Martin - July 23, 2011 9:23 AM

Don’t get me wrong Bill. If someone was going to ask me to choose between consuming raw milk or yogurt or kefir made from raw milk, I would choose the later. Having said that, I want to see hard data showing that raw yogurt and kefir have the capacity to 100% kill all pathogens dead equal to pasteurization. The article you site states it has the potential to fight E.coli. That is different from making a statement that it kills all pathogens that could be present in raw yogurt and kefir. And by kills, I don’t mean reduces. I mean kills, eliminates, wipes-out with zero pathogens remaining.

Bill Anderson - July 23, 2011 6:45 PM

Hi Mary,

Even PMO standards require certain bacterial limits in the raw milk in order to assure food safety. If CAFO raw milk with a Staph Aureus count of 5 million per mL is pasteurized using PMO time/temperature guidelines, it will still make you sick because Staph entero-toxin is heat-stable and can survive pasteurization.

To expect that there is a process that can be 100% effective in ensuring food safety is unrealistic. Pasteurized milk has caused innumerable outbreaks and even 2 recent deaths. Clearly it is not the pancea you make it out to be.

The whole point of using HACCP-like plans (such as Mark's RAMP) is to analzye risk factors, and work to ensure they are effectively managed and minimized.

That being said, I am confident that raw milk that meets bacterial standards for human-grade raw milk (SPC under 15,000 and Coliform under 10/mL) and is cultured to under pH 4.5 using a measured does of lactic-acid producing bacteria, is equivilent to pasteurization in its pathogen destroying capabilities. The question which not yet been solved is which strains of which lactic bacteria need to be used to accomplish this.

Mary McGonigle-Martin - July 24, 2011 7:07 AM

Yes. Bill. I know that you are biased against pasteurization, but most outbreaks involve either faulty pasteurization or contamination after it has been pasteurized. As for Staph Aureus, how many document outbreaks have been caused by this bacterium?

The point I am trying to make is that people can make the choice to purchase raw milk from a local farmer and pasteurize it at home themselves. I believe there are many people out there that would like to support their local farmer, as well as being able to purchase milk that has not been produced using growth hormones, GMO feed, antibiotics and homogenization and at the same time don’t want to take the risk of consuming milk that has not been pasteurized.

Home pasteurization is an option people can choose.

Bill Anderson - July 24, 2011 11:24 AM

If people want to pasteurize at home, that is their choice. I just want to make sure that consumers have a choice to purchase clean, tested, CERTIFIED raw milk, and that our regulatory system is based on science and not corporate interests.

My main point is that lactic-acid fermentation will achieve the same effect of destroying pathogens as pasteurization will achieve, only without destroying the bio-diversity or denaturing the nutrients and ezymes.

As a cheese maker, I know that raw milk cheese has more flavor than pasteurized. Raw milk cheese (with the notable exception of unacidified high-moisture high-salt varieties, i.e. queso blanco) also has an intrinsic immunity to listeria monocytogenes that pasteurized milk cheeses lacks. For this reason, it is actually safer to make cheese with CERTIFIED raw milk than it is to make it with pasteurized milk.

Mary McGonigle-Martin - July 24, 2011 4:23 PM


I’m talking about people having the opportunity to home pasteurize their raw milk that is purchased from small farmers, cowshare programs or large dairies like OPDC. The very milk you would want people to buy. It is just an option for people who don’t want to take the risk of drinking raw milk, but want “healthy” milk. I’m not talking about sterilizing the milk, just pasteurizing it enough to kill the bad guys in case the farmer had a bad day and shit got in the milk. Why take that risk if you don’t have to?

As for raw cheese, I believe E.coli 0157:H7 made people ill last year. Remember the Costco outbreak. Shiga toxin E.coli is a potent bacteria.

As for this, “My main point is that lactic-acid fermentation will achieve the same effect of destroying pathogens as pasteurization will achieve, only without destroying the bio-diversity or denaturing the nutrients and ezymes.” I get that, but want to see had data proving that.

Mary McGonigle-Martin - July 24, 2011 4:42 PM

Bill, I apologize. You did post this link. I'm reading through it. It looks promising, but to be considered valid, it would have to be reproduced in another study and the same results would have to be found.
Bill Anderson - July 24, 2011 5:54 PM
Your analogy is weak, DD. 40,000 Americans die in auto accidents each year. Not a single person has died from drinking raw milk in over 30 years. Even if 1% of the population drinks raw milk (the real number is likely around 3%), and we assume that 100% drive cars on a regular basis, that would mean for raw milk to be as dangerous as cars, it would have to cause around 400 deaths each year.
Again... not a single death from drinking raw milk in over 30 years.
HELLO, wake up please Doc! This debate isn't about food safety. We have the tools to monitor and reasonably assure the safety of raw milk. This debate is about corporate domination of our food choices.
We tried changing the laws in Wisconsin. Yet despite having overwhelming popular support for our cause, it was shot down by big-money dairy lobbyists and lawyers. As for the regulators and public health people, they may not pass the laws, but they often have a hand in writing them, and they certainly have a hand in how they are interpretted and enforced.
Once again, follow the $$$$$$$$$

Bill Anderson - July 24, 2011 7:51 PM


No offense to Mark and OPDC (love them!) but I do think that raw milk cheese is a preferable vehicle for the delivery of the delicious nutrients in raw milk. Of course, I could be biased... I am a cheese maker, after all.

The combination of lactic-acid fermentation, salt, reduced moisture content, and age, all work to eliminate pathogens. Plus with cheese, because of the age, you have a chance to test everything for pathogens before it is sent to market (where with fluid drinking milk, because of its short shelf-life, any test you perform is looking at something already heading to market).

The E. Coli outbreaks that happened last year from raw milk cheese, happened because the producers were not following good practices and testing their cheese like they should have been. By utilizing HACCP types of plans and testing protocals, it is entirely possible to produce raw milk cheese with equivilent or higher safety than pasteurized milk cheese.

That being said, I choose to drink raw milk. I like the flavor better, and living in Wisconsin there is an abundance of small local dairy farms to choose from. It also makes better cheese any day, hands down. The finest artisan cheeses in the world are made with raw milk.

Mary McGonigle-Martin - July 24, 2011 8:12 PM


I just don’t understand the logic of stating that no one has died from drinking raw milk in the last 30 years. It makes me angry when Mark says this and just as angry when you say it. What exactly is your point? Are you saying it is O.K. for raw milk to make people ill because they didn’t die? Is it O.K. that Mari Tardiff still has to use a walker and that Lauren Herzog and Kalee Prue have permanent kidney damage and will probably require kidney dialysis sometime in their lives? What, they didn’t die so contaminated raw milk is not a safety issue?

This information is posted on STOP about my son’s illness.

Labor Day Weekend of 2006 changed our lives forever. Little did we know the raw milk our son consumed was contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. While we innocently swam in our backyard swimming pool and enjoyed the holiday, this killer bacterium slowly invaded Chris' intestinal track. The first signs of trouble: a headache, followed by fever and lethargy. Next, a day filled with endless episodes of diarrhea, culminating that evening with blood in his stool. This signaled something was terribly wrong. From there, relentless, painful diarrhea and vomiting began, marking the beginning of our two month odyssey to Hell.

Nothing can prepare a parent for this medical announcement: "Your child has Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome". Or this one: "Your child will get worse before he gets better". Our son fought a war. It was against something invisible. You can't see or smell E. coli O157:H7 or the die off (called Shiga toxins) which are poisonous to the human body. The damage done by this bacterium is incomprehensible.

Christopher entered the emergency room during the evening of September 7th and was admitted to the hospital the following morning. He was diagnosed with Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome on September 11, 2006. He endured a ventilator, kidney dialysis, chest drainage tubes, central lines, PICC lines, blood transfusions, plasma transfusions platelet transfusions, intravenous nutrition, narcotics, antibiotics, and surgeries. He recovered from renal failure, congestive heart failure, a collapsed lung, acute pancreatitis, high blood pressure and seizures. While in critical condition, he was in the care of a nephrologist, cardiologist, neurologist, gastroenterologist and multiple attending pediatric ICU physicians. Christopher was released from the hospital on November 2, 2006.

Our family is blessed. Chris won his war against E. coli O157:H7 and HUS. He survived.

Our son, Christopher Chase, is our hero. He taught us so much about the strength of the human spirit and is living proof that miracles do happen.

Bill, please help me understand what your point is, because I am clueless." 

Mary Martin, you are my hero and I am glad Chris Martin is alive and here with us today. His story can be found here:

1 comment:

  1. I was hospitalized after eating at BLD in Los Angeles in 2007. I had salmonella food poisoning along with about 40 other patrons. The salmonella came from eggs that had not been properly cooked. I was very ill and it changed my life. I had blood coming out of both ends I was so violently ill. It took me years to fully recover so I am sympathetic to these people. However, I grew up on a goat farm and have been drinking raw goat and cow milk for 32 years. I make my own kefir as well and I have never once been sick from raw milk in 32 years. I thought I was going to die I was so sick from the eggs served to me at a nice restaurant. You are at a greater risk of suffering a debilitating case of ecoli or salmonella eating in a restaurant than you are from drinking raw milk or kefir you make with raw milk. In addition, ecoli can be picked up in your environment and transferred to the milk without the milk already containing it. If you do make your own kefir you need to be as clean as possible so as not to contaminate it.

    P.S. I got a settlement from BLD but you couldn't pay me enough to go through that nightmare again. Be careful about eating eggs in restaurants!