Another Recall At OPDC--Wishing for Clear Thinking on Both Sides; Shifting Media Focus?
The West Coast people got a little bit of a head start in discussing the recall of Organic Pastures Dairy Co.’s products (following my previous post). A recall, and quarantine, was ordered by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, alleging that campylobacter was found in a sample of OPDC cream, and that at least ten people became ill as a result earlier this year.
Mark McAfee, the owner of OPDC, stated in an email, "The recall press release is written in a very misleading way. The detection of campylobacter in one sample of cream was not connected to any illnesses. Any readers of this recall would be led to assume that there were ten illnesses associated with OPDC products. This is a completely misleading conclusion. Those loosely associated cases were four months ago...No finger prints matching anything at OPDC."
It’s impossible to tell from the press release if any kind of genetic link was made between the campylobacter found at OPDC and the ten people the CDFA says were sickened by OPDC milk.
My feeling, and the feeling of many other raw milk advocates, is that OPDC should be treated the same as any business serving the public whose food is found to be contaminated. If OPDC has a chronic contamination problem, or has become too large to reliably produce safe milk, then it needs to do what is required to correct the problem. Part of what’s unclear at this point is whether OPDC is getting the same treatment.
The CDFA press release states, “From January through April 30, 2012, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) reports that at least ten people with campylobacter infection were identified throughout California and reported consuming Organic Pastures raw milk prior to illness onset.”
Possibly the state hadn’t yet had a chance to make the comparison of the campylobacter found in the OPDC cream with the samples found in the ten people who got sick, and was forcing the recall out of an abundance of caution? Maybe there wasn’t a match? Maybe there was a match in some of the individuals and not in others?
Whatever the situation, the state should have been clear. Given the number of raw milk customers in California, and the emotion around the issue of raw milk availability, it is as incumbent on the state to take care as it is on OPDC to produce a safe product. The stakes are too high for all concerned.
As Ron Klein suggests in his comment following my previous post, another part of the challenge here is a willingness by food rights advocates to stand up to the reality that some dairy producers may not be doing what is required to produce a safe product. “There is a lot at stake in the fundamental questions surrounding food rights. Unless this ‘movement’ addresses in a systematic and responsible manner how to provide a clean and safe product, educate consumers and helps those affected by regulatory over reach or contaminated products--there is no hope.”
There have been some surprisingly fair appraisals of the conflict over raw milk of late. America’s Test Kitchen has about a twenty-minute “debate” about raw milk (including comments from me), which starts about 14 min 30 sec into the segment. And Fox News NY has about an eight-minute segment on the crackdown on raw milk. Both segments are quite lengthy by major radio and television outlet standards. There’s also an excellent segment featuring one of the Minnesota moms being targeted by the state’s agriculture department (as described in my previous two posts), on the Josh Trolley show.
For those following state legislative initiatives on the raw milk front, the Real Raw Milk Facts site, despite its anti-raw-milk tone, has done an excellent job of collecting up-to-date information on what's happening, including links to proposed legislation in various states.
I'm told the Food Rights Workshop in Minneapolis has a few spaces for last-minute attendees at the afternoon session tomorrow (Sunday); the dinner has been sold out.