Marler ClarkMarler Clark filed two E. coli lawsuits against Organic Pastures on February 7, 2008. The lawsuits were filed in Fresno County Superior Court on behalf of two children who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) secondary to E. coli O157:H7 infection after consuming Organic Pastures raw milk.

The California Department of Health Services
(CDHS) and California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) conducted an investigation into the E. coli outbreak in September of 2006. CDHS and CDFA identified six children who had become ill with either E. coli O157:H7 or HUS and learned that all six had consumed Organic Pastures raw milk or colostrum in the days before becoming ill.

While investigating the cause of the children’s illness, pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), or “genetic fingerprinting” confirmed that five of the six children were infected with the same strain of E. coli; the sixth did not test positive for E. coli but had HUS. An investigation at Organic Pastures led to the discovery that several cows were infected with E. coli O157:H7, although the strain was different from the outbreak strain. CDHS determined that unpasteurized dairy products from Organic Pastures were the likely source of the outbreak.

Eleven-year-old Lauren Herzog and 9-year-old Chris Martin both consumed raw milk produced by Organic Pastures in early September of 2006. Lauren became ill with symptoms of E. coli infection on September 6. Her illness subsequently developed into HUS, a life-threatening complication of E. coli infection that can cause kidney failure and central nervous system impairment, and she was hospitalized on September 8. Lauren suffered acute renal failure and required approximately two weeks of daily kidney dialysis. She remained hospitalized until October 18, 2006, when she was discharged with over $250,000 in medical bills.

Chris became ill with symptoms of E. coli infection on September 5, 2006 and he was hospitalized on September 7. Like Lauren, Chris suffered HUS. His condition worsened and he was transported by helicopter to a Children’s hospital and was placed in pediatric intensive care. Chris’ kidneys failed and he required weeks of daily dialysis, as well as multiple blood transfusions. He was placed on a ventilator as a result of impending congestive heart failure, and remained on the ventilator for five days, was briefly taken off the ventilator, and later returned for several more days. Chris suffered a number of seizures as a result of his HUS. He also developed high blood pressure and pancreatitis. Chris was discharged from the hospital on November 2, 2006, nearly two months after he was admitted, with over $450,000 in medical bills.

  • Matt Siemer

    Why am I not surprised that a blog condemning raw milk is run by a law firm? Who cares about the truth when there’s money to be made?

  • I’m always into discussions on anything organic, so this read made me feel at home.
    I’ll bookmark the site and subscribe to the feed!

  • SM

    Money to be made? My gosh, I witnessed Chris and the other young girl in the hospital and the day to day wait and struggle for those young children. It’s one minute to the next to see if they would live or not!
    Money…you are ignorant if you think it is about money. I would hope that you never have to live thru what those children experienced, or to be the parent of a child who is hooked up to so many tubes and wires you don’t know where one starts and the other ends! Or have to experience your major organs failing! Get a clue, read about it before you post a statement!

  • Mike

    There’s a warning label on the milk jug, for cryin’ out loud!

  • Bradley

    Does anyone know if there were any other common food’s ingested by these children?
    Considering the cost of raw milk and the niche market, it’s possible that there were other common exposures, such as unclean organic produce?
    It’s curious that that strain of e. coli does not match what was found at Organic Pastures. Is there a reasonable explanation for this?

  • liz

    If the strain of e.coli didn’t match the one found at organic pastures, how are they being implicated?

  • Kristen

    “Organic Pastures Dairy Company (OPDC) raw milk products are back on the shelves following a recall in September. The recall occurred during the midst of the spinach contamination scare and seemed to be aimed at deflecting attention from the huge problems of E.coli O157:H7 contamination in produce. The state claimed that five raw milk-drinking children became ill, two of whom were hospitalized, given antibiotics and almost died. (The other three received no antibiotics and recovered quickly.) The mother of one child denied the illness had anything to do with raw milk and the other child had consumed spinach two days before the illness. A team dressed in protective gear tested and retested the cows, the milk and the manure on the farm and found zero pathogens. On September 29th, more than 200 people from around the state showed up at OPDC to show their support for Organic Pastures products, and defend their right to choose what they eat. At the rally/press conference, Mark McAfee signed and victoriously displayed no less than nine CDFA documents releasing the company from quarantine and retracting the recent product recall. Lawsuits against several officials in the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CFDA) are in the works. All the publicity has lead to an increase in sales of about 12 percent.”

  • Well, as I’ve been following everything legal to do with raw milk (I’m a member of Farm To Consumer Legal Defense Fund) – I was really surprised to see this lawsuit – as I should have seen it, if it occurred.
    So I phoned the lawyer’s office and asked for more information about this supposed lawsuit, records of it, etc. The receptionist asked me to hold and when she came back on, told me that they’re “legally prohibited” from releasing any more information about it and that what’s on the website is all they’re “legally allowed to make public”. Can you believe it?
    Oh, so you can “legally” raise slanderous accusations against a company, but then to produce any actual evidence supporting your slander, oh no, that’s “illegal”?
    My suspicion is that this lawyer is on the payroll for agribusiness, the Dairy Board, etc.
    I can tell you that Organic Pasture’s legal battles over their milk have gone all the way up to the governor (Schwarzenegger) and they have passed every microbiological screen thrown at them.
    People need to be more diligent about verifying information on the Internet. At the end of the day – if you want to figure out if something is likely, or not: Follow the money, honey!
    Imagine what would happen to the dairy industry if they were subjected to the same pathogen testing that raw milk is subjected to. How would they turn those mistreated, disease-ridden, factory-farmed cows into healthy cows, producing healthy milk? It would cost them a fortune – definitely something to be avoided. Follow the money….

  • After I posted my initial comment above, Bill Marler emailed me directly. We eventually ended up a having a discussion about this issue and raw milk in general – which was very interesting.
    Then I had a talk with Mark McAfee (CEO of Organic Pastures).
    If you’d like to know what went down with both parties, I’ve posted the full account on my blog:
    In case this URL doesn’t show up, just click on my name, which will take you to my website, then click on BLOG and look for the title: “Is Raw Milk Safe?”