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Raw milk dairy’s defiance prompts WSDA’s health alert

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The Washington State Department of Agriculture advises consumers to not drink raw milk from Pride & Joy Dairy

The Washington State Department of Agriculture has issued a rare health alert, advising consumers to not drink raw milk from a dairy that refused to halt production pending an investigation into why its milk tested positive for salmonella.

Pride & Joy Dairy of Toppenish maintains that its milk is safe, though the owner said Tuesday that most retailers have stopped selling it.

“The impact is horrible,” said Cheryl Voortman, who owns the dairy with her husband, Allen. “It’s killing us, inch by inch.”

WSDA reported detecting salmonella Sept. 27 during a routine monthly sampling of raw milk from Pride & Joy. The next day, the dairy declined WSDA’s request to suspend production. The dairy stated in a Facebook post that it was being “targeted again.”

Pride & Joy distributes milk to more than two dozen retailers in Western and Eastern Washington, as well as 19 drop-off points, according to its website. Cheryl Voortman said the dairy has about 100 milking cows and has been producing raw milk for nine years.

No one has reported becoming sick after drinking the dairy’s milk. The milk that tested positive for salmonella was collected by the department Sept. 18 and had a best-by date of Oct. 4. The dairy has said it will take back milk with that pull date.

WSDA inspectors collected more milk from the dairy Monday. Test results may be available by the end of the week, WSDA spokesman Hector Castro said. In the meantime, the warning to consumers will remain in effect, he said.

WSDA has no authority to order recalls, but in most cases food makers voluntarily pull back products and suspend production, Castro said. The last time the department issued a public warning because a producer didn’t take those steps was in 2013, he said.

The dairy said it would continue production because no one has been made ill and that it didn’t want another lengthy shutdown. The dairy said it was out of production for nearly three months this year after its raw milk tested positive for E. coli.

Voortman said dealing with the department in that case was frustrating. Castro said the shutdown was prolonged, in part, because E. coli was also found in a follow-up test.

Voortman said the dairy does everything possible to make its raw milk safe.

“We scrub everyday, we clean everyday,” she said. “We’re as cautious as we can be about the safety of our milk.”

She said the dairy has cut back on bottling for retail sales. “There are a few (retailers) willing to take the so-called risk,” she said. “The customers who are desperate for our milk are contacting us.”

Voortman said she doesn’t know what the dairy will do if the milk collected Monday tests positive for salmonella.

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