Thursday, December 11, 2014

An avoidable child death from consumption of organic milk proves this point: Organic farming is a food marketing system, not a food safety system.

Organic Empire Webpage Screen capture 9 Dec 2014

Mountain View Organic are a food marketing company with high flown rhetoric about 'kind farming and good health practices". Mountain View Organic Dairy uses The Organic Empire (featured in the screen capture shown above) as one of their channels to market their 'bath milk'. It's a food store.

'Bath milk' is unfit for human consumption because it has not been given the mild heat safety promoting treatment known as Pasteurisation. Sure, pasteurised milk is 'processed', but its a process that makes milk safer by killing dangerous germs such deadly pathogenic E. coli bacteria that cows can carry in their intestines without showing any symptoms.

Belgrave Organics, Belgrave, Peninsula Fresh Organics, Baxter, Bolton Street Deli and Liquor, Eltham also participated in the distribution of this milk to consumers. These are all food stores.

Via a post at the Mountain View Organic/Permaculture Transition Farm website Mountain View offered bath-milk milk for sale as if it were a food product:

Screen capture Mountain View Farm Organic Milk  [post] 9 Dec 2014)
To quote the text:
Mountain View Farm is located in the gorgeous Strzelecki Ranges in the heart of the Gippsland region, Victoria. Using organic and ethical farming practices, they run a herd of 150 Jersey and Jersey-cross dairy cows. Farmers Rowan, Vicki and their children have a strong commitment to sustainable farming practices. They nurture the land, their soil and the microbial life contained within and their animals – caring for and respecting them.  Mountain View Farm is very unique in that their herd is solely grass fed and they allow the calves to stay with their dairy mums.  Their milk and yogurt is incredibly tasty too!
Mountain View Farm is offering the following products:
1L Bath Milk     $3.50
2 L Bath Milk    $6.50
3L Bath Milk     $8.50
1 kg Yogurt       $6.50
2 kg Yogurt       $12.00
10kg Grass-fed Mince Pack – $11.00/kg. Total $110.00
10kg Sausages Packs – $12.50/kg. Total $125.00
Sausages are preservative free and gluten free and all natural skins.
No emphasis at all in this webpage on the absolute need to never consume 'bath milk' as if it were suitable as food.  Furthermore, on this webpage, 'bath milk' (unpasteurised and potentially deadly) is offered for sale next to food products.

The Mountain View Farm goes in for cow herd-sharing, which is a fancy arrangement to subvert a legal prohibition in Victoria that forbids the selling of raw (unpasteurised) milk.

Herd-sharers clients of Mountain View pay to own the cows, but get their raw unprocessed milk free, because sale of such milk is illegal for safety reasons. It's very smart business deal structuring by Mountain View.

The prospectus for those interested in 'herd-sharing' cows agisted on the Mountain View farm  shows that Mountain View are well aware of the legal restrictions:

But this prospectus section shown above for potential herd-sharers has a very curious  form of words that does not require herd-shares to not consume the 'bath-milk', or knowingly giving the milk, say, to infants as a drink.

The Mountain View Farm herd-sharing documents also contain these words:

No chemicals are used [sic], and if there are infections in the animals, the cows could be treated with homeopathic remedies. Lucky cows.

The Pundit cannot help wondering how the effective this chemical free approach is at minimising levels of pathogenic E. coli such as those that can cause permanent kidney damage and HUS disease.

All very smooth sailing for Mountain View's clever-clever way of getting past the state's legal prohibitions on the sale of unpasteurised milk.

Until today when this happened:

Today's Herald-Sun's tabloid front page headline screams out that Mountain View were selling killer milk.

Mountain View Organic Dairy was implicated as the connection between a cluster of 5 pathogenic E. coli infections that included several serious cases of life threatening HUS disease and one death of a three year old child. Mountain View Organic Dairy's business smarts have completely evaporated.

And how do Mountain View respond? Well for a start they promptly pulled the webpages shown as screen capture images at the start of this post.

The Age newspaper website  today records the reaction of Mountain View farm owner Vicki Jones.
"A producer of raw milk, which has been linked to the death of a Melbourne toddler, says the dangers of the product have been sensationalised.
A three-year-old child died and another four young children fell seriously ill after drinking unpasteurised cow's milk being sold in health food shops as "bath milk".
The toddler, understood to be from Melbourne's Mornington Peninsula, died after drinking raw milk, believed to be Mountain View Organic Bath Milk.
Mountain View Farm owner Vicki Jones said she was shocked by news of the toddler's death, but said the dangers of raw milk had been sensationalised by the media.
"I'm in shock, I think it's a bit sensationalised," she told Fairfax Radio 3AW on Thursday.
Ms Jones said she was aware people consumed Mountain View Farm's bath milk, despite the warnings on the label.
"I know people drink it. It is a raw product - I don't know why people drink it. I mean, I guess they feel that it's healthy," she said.
"The label actually says not for human consumption - it's a cosmetic product, not for human consumption. Every time we're approached by someone who says 'Can we drink this milk?' we tell them that it's not for consumption."
This from a company that markets 'bath milk' alongside other food products on its own webpages, distributes this dangerous raw product to food stores, and describes it as 'incredibly tasty'.

The Mountain View Affair demonstrates yet again that supposed absence of chemicals in organic manufacturing processes does not assure absence of deadly pathogens, and this may be especially true when sick cows are treated with hom[o]eopathic remedies (which incidentally are 100 percent chemical: the chemical is called H2O).

Naturalness does not provide an assurance of safety. Germs can be naturally deadly. Unprocessed food can be unsafe if necessary processes needed to kill germs are unused. The naturalness ethical belief system and avoidance of appropriate food process treatments by Mountain View Organic Farm was a complete failure in stopping their product from being deadly.

As the Pundit (and other more famous food safety pundits) have said before, organic food production is a food marketing system, not a food safety assurance system.

12/12/2014. Update from ACCC consumer affairs agencey
Mountain View Farm recalls Organic Bath Milk
12 December 2014
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is alerting consumers that Mountain View Farm Organic Bath Milk has been recalled today. The bath milk contains raw, or unpasteurised, milk and is sold in one and two litre varieties.

“Mountain View Farm Organic Bath Milk has been linked to a number of recent health concerns in young children after being used as a substitute for regular pasteurised milk," ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.

“The message from health agencies is clear: do not drink unpasteurised milk.”

“If you have this product, do not drink it in any circumstances. Return it to the place of purchase for a full refund,” Ms Rickard said.

In Australia, the sale of raw cow’s milk for consumption is illegal however the ACCC understands that some people do consume the product despite it being marketed as a bath milk.

“The recalled product is called Organic Bath Milk and labelling indicates that it is a cosmetic product. It also carries a warning that the product is not suitable for human consumption,” Ms Rickard said.

“Nevertheless, this product is sold in containers that resemble commonly used milk containers, and four children under the age of five have fallen ill after drinking contaminated raw milk in the last few weeks, while the death of the three-year-old has been referred to the coroner."

The ACCC is leading a national investigation of consumer law regulators into possible breaches of the Australian Consumer Law by sellers of raw milk when sold as a cosmetic product.

Regulators will consider issues including whether product labels mislead consumers; whether the sellers’ obligation to provide safe goods has been met and whether voluntary or mandatory changes will address health concerns.

Details of the product recall may be found at (link is external)

Release number:
MR 307/14
Media enquiries:
Media team - 1300 138 917

From Mountain View's now dead Facebook pages:

2014 Sep 28 Facebook
And this at The Guardian

But at The Herald-Sun we have another scorcher:

Newspaper photo taken in an organic food shop in Fitzroy (an architecturally delightful fashionable, left-leaning inner city suburb of Melbourne, where many high income University educated food trendies would shun the Murdoch Tabloid whose front page is shown above).

"Are you being served?" 
According to the Herald-Sun (above depicted issue):
"Yesterday stores in Malvern, Carlton, Fitzroy, Balaclava, Thornbury, Elsternwick, Albert Park, Box Hill and Belgrave all stocked it near other food items." Plenty of inner city sophisticates being served here.

13/12/2014 And the story continues to evolve . It emerges that Mountain View Farm owner Vicki Jones spreads the raw milk views of the notorious Health Ranger though her Face book page (while curiously this last week professing "not to know" why people drink the raw milk she sells).

More evidence of the extent of organic-inclined food store marketing of 'bath milk' as food has continued to emerge: The free-range crowd at Cannings (Hawthorn and Kew establishments) who claim that "food safety has always been a high priority" have suddenly decided not to sell Mountain View products.

January 5 2015 update
The Sydney Daily Tele on the job:
Raw milk in the fridge with other dairy products at the Go Vita health food shop in Darlinghurst.

4 Apr 2017 update

More backstory on the profit motive

Herd-sharing is a system to increase profits by selling unpasteurised milk

Vicki and Rowan Jones of Mountain View Farm dairy in Gippsland master the herd share arrangement SARAH HUDSON, The Weekly Times

September 17, 2014 12:00am

Vicki, together with her husband, Rowan, and three children, runs Mountain View Farm dairy across three properties totalling 230ha in Gippsland.

And while the 150-cow business is a little different from the norm — certified organic, with a low stocking rate, entirely grass-fed, with a sideline in dairy cow beef and for now producing unpasteurised bath milk — it is the Jones’ herd-share structure that is unlike any other dairy.

“One day about three years ago I was researching dairies in the US and found the herd-share concept,” Vicki explained. “At the time, we were farming organically, but still supplying conventional processors. I was frustrated with the farmgate price and I wanted to make the most of our product.”

Broadly speaking, the concept sees individuals collectively buy a herd and pay a farmer to manage and care for the cows. Each herd owner is then entitled to a portion of the herd’s produce.

Mountain View Farm has 360 herd sharing families.

For the minimum requirement of four litres a week, a member pays a one-off upfront fee of $120, then $41 a month. If a member wants eight litres a week they pay a one-off upfront fee of $240, then $82 a month. All members are invoiced annually.

Vicki said this compared well given returns for unpasteurised bath milk could be up to $5 a litre.

Milk is transported from the farm to pick-up points in shops within 100km of the farm, around the Mornington Peninsula, Eltham and Hurstbridge.

Vicki said establishing the herd share was no simple task.

“It took me 12 months to get the lawyer’s head around the concept,” she said....

... Vicki said the dairy model has “saved our farm” and her sanity. “If we didn’t do this we would have potentially lost the farm when interest rates hit.

“As a herd share, having that connection has kept me sane. We have created a community around the farm.

“Once a year we run community days where they visit and help us collect fire wood and plant fruit trees.

“They love owning their own piece of the herd.

“When we were conventional dairy farmers I felt so frustrated at being powerless in the industry but now we are price setters and have security. It actually feels like we are running a business.”

Update 4 Apr 2017

Coroners decision: Warnings on label and changes to state regulations enough

Frankston toddler’s death ‘linked to’ drinking unpasteurised bath milk, coroner finds
Allison Harding, Mornington Peninsula Leader
November 11, 2016 10:04am

THE tragic death of a Frankston toddler was most likely linked to his consumption of an unpasteurised bath milk his parents bought from a peninsula store, a coroner has ruled.

But the coroner, Audrey Jamieson, cleared the producer, Mountain View Organic Dairy, of any wrongdoing, saying the container was properly labelled and included a warning.

The parents of the three-year-old boy, who cannot be named, took him to Frankston Hospital emergency department on October 4, 2014 and he was transferred to Monash Medical Centre two days later.

The coroner, who did not hold a public inquest, said evidence indicated the little boy died on October 13 from a rare and severe complication of E. coli infection, called haemolytic uraemic syndrome.
“I find on the balance of probabilities that (the) death was most likely linked to the consumption of unpasteurised milk,” she said.
She said regulation of unpasteurised milk sales had been adequately managed in the wake of the death.
The coroner also said the medical management of the boy was reasonable and appropriate.

The police investigation revealed the boy’s family had changed his diet after June 2014, when a naturopath assessed the toddler as intolerant to dairy, gluten and eggs.
The father told police they went to “lot of trouble to get milk” and bought unpasteurised Mountain View Organic Dairy bath milk from a peninsula store.
The father told police they understood the milk was labelled as “not to be drunk, but stated he would be surprised if anybody used it for cosmetic purposes”.
The parents used the milk in tea and occasionally gave the boy a small amount with his formula.
The father told police it was possible the boy had some of the milk in the days before he fell ill.

The Department of Health and Human Services linked cases of similar illness — in people who had the same brand of unpasteurised milk — after being notified of the boy’s death, and a health warning was issued.

In her finding, the coroner cleared the dairy company of any wrongdoing and said people should be aware unpasteurised milk could contain harmful bacteria.

“If members of our community choose to drink farmgate unpasteurised milk, that is their choice,” she said.

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