December 29, 2005
1. Summary of Dee Creek Farm Raw Milk and e.coli 0157 H7 Outbreak by Chris Ostrander
On December 12, 2005 a quiet controversy in Washington State over the right of self-regulated Shareholder Dairies became a very noisy one when a cluster E. coli 0157:H7 illnesses were reported in the media to be associated with a Shareholder Dairy in Woodland, WA. The dairy is Dee Creek Farm, owned by Weston A. Price Foundation members Anita and Michael Puckett and daughter Summer Steenbarger. To date, although there seems to be a relationship between Dee Creek Farm shareholders and the reported cases, no E. coli was found in the milk that was privately sampled immediately after the outbreak was suspected (when a shareholder called the farm reporting an E. coli 0157:H7 illness). Additional private samples as well as samples taken by the Washington State Department of Agriculture are still being analyzed.
This event is really unfortunate. Some of those affected, mostly children, became very sick – some were hospitalized with serious complications. Two of the children are still in the hospital and showing signs of improvement. Everyone is hoping for their full recovery. Our thoughts also need to be with the families who run the farm in Woodland. They are careful, conscientious farmers for whom this crisis is devastating. They and their family with nine dependents are now living with the fear of losing their home and their farm that they have worked decades to acquire and improve. Despite the hold harmless clauses that each Dee Creek shareholder signed, it appears that the predatory personal injury law firm of Marler and Clark is trying to persuade a couple of shareholder families to sue Dee Creek Farm. Potential exists for the farm to be sued by medical insurance companies as well. This would be a tragedy as the farm family has not the resources to afford legal representation; also because it has not been established whether the contamination of the milk occurred on the farm or after the milk left the farm. A state veterinarian who was overseeing the State’s sampling of milk from Dee Creek Farm and observing their milking protocol subsequent to the outbreak told the farmers that their cows and their practices were very clean. The farm family deserves our compassion and support. It is important to remember that illness resulting from E. coli contamination can and does occur in a wide variety of foods. This type of outbreak can strike any farmer, often through no fault of the farmer. E. coli 0157:H7 is considered by some to be a mutant organism for which we can blame its emergence on practitioners of genetic engineering and antibiotic-dependent industrial agriculture.
At press time, new developments are being reported hourly, but media coverage of the E. coli cluster in Southwest Washington has been pathetic. It has been a showcase of sensationalism and unprofessional journalism. Practically the only experts who have been quoted in media reports work either for state and county government agencies or the processed dairy industry and these experts are quick to condemn raw milk as often as they can. The media now report 18 E.coli cases related to the outbreak, yet as of this writing, there are only 7 confirmed cases where E. coli 0157:H7 has been isolated and not all of these individuals became sick and not all of the sick crank raw milk from Dee Creek Farm. The Clark County Health Department issued a press release that was circulated widely stating that milk samples from Dee Creek Farm had tested positive for E. coli, however, as of this writing, WSDA, who has the samples in their lab, has not completed the lab tests and has not released official findings even to the Clark County Health Department. This is a textbook case of the press acting as unquestioning mouthpiece for official information without any critical analysis or effort made to verify it. To its credit, at least one media outlet issued a retraction of its reporting of the errant Health Department press release when it learned of its inaccuracy. Now, word of possible new legislation, perhaps banning raw milk in Washington State and self-regulated Shareholder Dairies, is being reported.
E. coli is responsible for the illness cluster in Southwest Washington, not raw milk or Shareholder Dairies. This region of Washington State seems to be responsible for a good share of the state’s E. coli outbreaks. It will be very important in the up-coming weeks and months for informed, active individuals to work at keeping the focus of debate on the true issues at hand and keep it from becoming a fear-based vendetta that threatens our freedom of choice in foods and our freedom to produce our own foods. Please keep alert for further developments and act on specific alerts that will be forthcoming.
Chrysalis Farm @ Tolstoy
33495 Mill Canyon Rd.
Davenport, WA 99122
chrys (at) thefutureisorganic.net
2. From Dee Creek Farms:
December 27th, 2005, 11:50pm
Well, this past weekend has been a very busy one! Friday we spent the day in town, picking up gifts for the hospitalized families, and then heading to their homes. You all have been so very generous. It is amazing. We are all overwhelmed by the support that you all have shown! Here is the latest report on health:
Family A – 13yo was doing better, sleeping less, alert and active a bit more. The whole family ended up with some nasty colds, and spent Christmas home mostly in bed instead of with family, as planned. Bloodwork is heading in the right direction.
Family B – We spent some time with some of the family on Friday evening, and then a bit again tonight. It looks like 9yo is doing fairly well, tho’ still in the hospital with daily dialysis and an inflamed pancreas. She has been eating a bit the past several days. Praise the Lord!
Family C – We just got an update yesterday that the little guy has urinated for the second time in two days, and is holding food down much better. The family did get a chance to head home for a couple of hours on Christmas, which I’m sure was such a comfort to everyone!
We are so very grateful that these kids are feeling better, and are praying that they will soon return to normal kidney function. Continue to pray that the healing will be complete. Family C are hoping to get home late this weekend.
We are still sending gifts their way, so you are still welcome and encouraged to drop anything off at your usual pick up location. Family C has requested that they do not receive money, but appreciate food and gifts very much. Food preparation is difficult for all of these families at this time, I am sure.
One of the Owners was working on setting up a Financial Aid Line to help these families. Someone affiliated with one of the hospitals (I believe) has set up a fund called the E. coli Kids Foundation Fund and it will help pay medical bills for the kids, especially for those who are uninsured. Michelle Laird is the spokeswoman for the fund and contributions will be accepted at any Wells Fargo Branch in Oregon and Washington. For information call 503-913-8343.
Even if these folks have insurance, these families have lost many weeks of work, tanks and tanks of gas, time, and plenty more! I will check into this Fund and see if it will be helping in financial ways beyond the medical expenses.
There are many things floating around right now, and I want to get you all up to speed on what I can right now:
First, we still have not heard back from the WSDA regarding any samples. We have left numerous messages, and will continue to do so. The last that WE heard from them was on Tuesday, the 20th, when Claudia let us know that there had not been e. coli confirmed in any samples, and that they were still testing. Nothing since then. Friday the Clark County DOH was supposed to retract that statement. Today the Capital Press released an article that says e. coli was confirmed, but not necessarily the right strain. Not sure if this is new news or old.
Also, I know that many of you have been well-informed about our Cease & Desist notice in August, but I do realize that some of the new folks here didn’t receive the email that we sent out regarding it. The most important thing to note is that we did NOT receive an order. We responded to the letter within 15 days explaining that we did not indeed sell milk, that we were pursuing Grade A, and requested information on the new bottling and capping laws. We have not heard a word back from them since. Until now.
As many of you know, we have been pursuing a Grade A license the past few months. We have most of the stainless steel countertops and sinks now, and were getting ready to pour the floor. Plumbing is out there, but no electric yet. It was in the works.
There is also a lot of ‘dirty farmer’ stuff going around. We use stainless steel closed-system buckets, and wash udders two times with iodine prior to milking, then dip after with an anti-bacterial dip. Tho’ we ask that you wash your own jars to your desired cleanliness, we do send them through the dishwasher when they arrive, before we pour.
We will be uploading a page on our website with all Facts, so that you can find these tid bits there, as we focus these emails on the issues at hand, and the updates to report.
I hope you all had a Merry Christmas! May this week be filled with love, peace, and joy. Please uphold the kids that are sick this week, as they spend their holidays away from home. We pray they can return soon! May every single thought, gift, and prayer be felt – and lighten even a bit of their load with each one.