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Family Sues Raw Milk Distributor Over Claims of E. Coli Contamination

Jul 30, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

A Missouri family has filed a lawsuit against a raw milk distributor over claims of an E. coli infection.  Brian and Angela Pedersen allege they bought raw milk from Soni Copeland and The Herb Depot and Organic Market in Barry County, Missouri last April.  The Pedersen’s say that after they fed the raw milk to their one-year-old infant son, he tested positive for E. coli and then developed a life-threatening syndrome.  The Pedersen’s attorney says retail establishments, such as The Herb Depot, should not sell raw milk.

Meanwhile, four people recently fell ill after ingesting E. coli-tainted raw milk purchased from Town Farm Dairy—the only Connecticut farm certified to sell raw, organic milk.  In the first E. coli case, a two-year-old fell ill last month.  The second cased followed five days later and struck a seven-year-old.  In another recent  E. coli case linked to raw milk, three adults and 15 children were sickened by raw milk traced back to Dee Creek's dairy; three of the children were hospitalized with renal failure, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  Michael and Anita Puckett, owners of Dee Creek’s, pleaded guilty to distribution of adulterated food involved in the December 2005 E. coli outbreak that involved raw milk and sickened 18 people in Washington and Oregon.  The couple faces a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine at their September 5 sentencing later this year. The case was prosecuted in federal court because the milk crossed state lines.  

In 1938, milk was the cause of 25 percent of all food- and water-related sickness.  With the introduction of universal pasteurization—long considered one of the most successful public health endeavors of the last century—that number fell to one percent by 1993.  Despite this, a growing number of dairy owners have been selling raw milk—some illegally—as part of the growing natural food movement.  Food safety officials say raw milk has sickened hundreds of people with Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, and other harmful and potentially fatal bacteria.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1,000 people fell ill from raw milk between 1998 and 2005. Two died.

Escherichia coli is a relatively common bacteria found in the human digestive tract and is normally harmless; however, some strains, including those linked to food poisoning, are serious and can cause fatal blood poisoning, cystitis, and deadly septicemia.  In the US, E. coli is the leading cause of food-borne illness.  About 73,000 people are infected and 61 people die from E. coli each year and, last year alone, over 22 million pounds of beef and vegetables were recalled due to E. coli outbreaks.

Scientists have expressed concern that infections from antibiotic resistant E. coli bacteria are spreading into the greater population and several countries also now report cases of antibiotic-resistant E. coli.  And, now, emerging data confirms the negative health effects of E. coli can remain for months and years; can have long-term, lasting effects; and can appear months or years after the original illness.


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