Header graphic for print
Food Poison Journal Food Poisoning Outbreaks and Litigation: Surveillance and Analysis

After raw milk outbreak that sickened 43, Pennsylvania Dairyman gets it right

Finally.  A raw milk dairyman who is both a good businessman and a conscientious producer.  Edwin Shank, who’s Family Cow dairy in Franklin County, PA was the source of a recent campylobacter outbreak that sickened at least 43, is making all the right moves: re-connecting with his customer base, learning from past mistakes, and just as important, it is very apparent that he truly does care about those sickened by his product.

In his article in the Chambersburg Public Opinion called “Raw Milk Seller: We’re taking this seriously“, senior writer Jim Hook profiled the steps that Shank’s dairy is now taking to prevent future illnesses:

Shank said he is installing lab equipment to test milk for E. coli, a bacteria that signals contamination. Every time the farm bottles raw milk, a few bottles from the run will be tested and after test results are available in a day or two, milk passing the test will be sold.

“We’ll test about four times a week, every time we bottle,” Shank said. “We feel a moral obligation to do a lot more testing because we sell a lot more milk. As we sell more and more, it only makes sense we do more and more testing. This is entirely voluntarily. Our goal is to have the absolute safest food out there.”

The farm will also make small changes to prevent potential cross-contamination. The farm will no longer accept egg cartons for re-use or plastic shopping bags from customers, even though they may have had nothing to do with the outbreak, according to Shank.

“We’ve doing a lot of things to eliminate any possibilities,” he said. “We’re taking it as a lesson learned. We’re embarrassed and feel awful. We’ve got to do better.”

The examples of raw milk producers who take a decidedly different approach are legion.  Maybe it really is “like snake oil.”  Whatever the case, or the cause, most raw milk producers haven’t got a clue about crisis management.  They prefer to just dig their hole a little deeper.  See Help Wanted: public relations position for raw dairies, originally published at Food Poison Journal in November 2010 in the wake of The Hartmann Debacle.  For more fun, see Hartmann Dairy’s typically raw-milkian PR blunder

Here’s to Edwin Shank, a different kind of raw dairyman.