Dairy owner defends milk after recall

FRESNO, Calif.

Organic Pastures Dairy in Fresno County is under the microscope by state health agencies for its raw milk products. "The shutdown is because they have epidemiological suspicion about this product," said Mark McAfee, owner and founder of Organic Pastures Dairy.

McAfee is defending his dairy company after five children in the state got sick between August and October for consuming unpasteurized, or raw milk. Three of the kids were hospitalized.

So far, McAfee says the lab samples taken from the milk products have not detected the strain of E. Coli found in the children. "All the milk actually being consumed by the people themselves was taken to a lab and tested and that test, all those tests are negative," said McAfee.

But officials aren't taking any chances and issued a recall for all raw products from the dairy. This isn't the first time Organic Pastures has come under investigation. Five years ago, the dairy faced another recall after several children fell ill.

"The recovery was a very long process, a lot of emotional damage, a lot of post-traumatic stress disorder," said Mary McGonicle-Martin. Her son was one of those hospitalized in 2006. The company was cleared after lab tests for E. Coli came back negative but the scare stopped Mary and her family from consuming raw milk foods.

"I had a false impression because it was tested then there couldn't be a pathogen in their milk. But that's not true, they don't test every single batch," said McGonicle-Martin.

Raw milk producers believe drinking the unpasteurized dairy product has added health benefits, such as enzymes and antibodies. But it can also contain harmful bacteria and although no deaths have been reported, health officials say an E. Coli infection could be fatal in younger children.

"Most of the time it's just limited to the intestine where you get the bad diarrhea but it can go throughout the body where it attacks the kidneys. The kidneys can shut down, you cannot make your blood supply properly so it can affect a lot of different things," said Dr. Larry Satkowiak with Children's Hospital Central California.

Organic Pastures says they will continue to cooperate with state investigators but are looking forward to have their products back on store shelves by this time next week.

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