Possible E. Coli Contamination Prompts Recall Of Toboton Creek Dairy Raw Milk

Residents of the Washingtonian cities of Olympia and Yelm should be aware that Toboton Creek Dairy has issued a recall for its raw dairy milk. The reason, as Food Safety News reports, is that the batch bottled in half-gallon containers could be contaminated with E. coli. The recall also applies to on-farm purchases. The specific batch of milk being pulled has best-by dates between February 1 and February 9. Anyone who has purchased the milk can return it for a full refund.

The CDC warns that E. coli is only one of the possible contagions that can enter raw milk. Others include Listeria, Brucella, and Salmonella. In a description that might sound snarky in a different context, the agency wrote, "Some people who chose raw milk thinking they would improve their health instead found themselves (or their loved ones) sick in a hospital for several weeks due to infections caused by germs in raw milk." Between 1993 and 2017, there were 1,909 reported illnesses and 144 hospitalizations due to raw milk. 

Raw milk in the United States

Many may be surprised by this recall because of how regulated dairy pasteurization is in large swathes of the United States. In 2017, Food & Wine noted that the requirement for pasteurization was gaining steam and looked like it would overcome the 29 states that still allowed for the selling of unpasteurized dairy products. Obviously, there is a legal pathway for unpasteurized milk in Washington state. According to Real Raw Milk Facts, the producer needs a license, a regularly tested herd, and to display the fact that the milk is raw on a label.

As mentioned, the CDC explains why people choose raw milk by citing the belief that the bacteria in the milk proves healthy. People can drink milk and be healthy provided there are no harmful bacteria that pasteurization would normally kill. "If you think that certain types of bacteria may be beneficial to your health, consider getting them from foods that don't involve such a high risk," the agency advises.

Still, ProCon.org notes that actually drinking raw milk is legal throughout the entire country. As of 2016, you could even buy it in stores like those in Washington.  Furthermore, in Alaska, a new debate started this January about repealing the ban on the sale of raw milk, as covered by Food Safety News.