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Creamery's raw milk returns to food bank

Sequim Gazette - 5/22/2019

After a month of being back on store shelves, Dungeness Valley Creamery's raw milk is now allowed back on area food bank's shelves — with a few small provisions.

In April, the Jersey cow farm's owners Ryan and Sarah McCarthey voluntarily recalled their milk products for two weeks after routine state Department of Agriculture (WSDA) sampling found E. coli in late March and again in early April.

After deep cleaning efforts and further testing, the couple was given an "all clear" on April 22.

WSDA reported that no illnesses were found related to the recalled product either.

Ryan McCarthey said they've scaled down some since the recall after losing about $35,000 in sales.

"It has had a little bit of a lasting effort," he said. "We're just recovering. It's one of those things where it was a two-week recall with three weeks of hassles."

On April 26, the McCartheys said on the farm's Facebook page that Clallam County Environmental Health Services notified them that they couldn't donate to area food banks because of state restrictions regarding unpasteurized milk donations.

McCarthey said they've "donated and sold milk to several food banks over the years without any issues."

Jennifer Garcelon, Clallam County environmental health director, said an online fundraising GoFundMe account for the farm brought the creamery's relationship with area food banks to their attention.

"We were not aware the (Sequim Food Bank) was taking raw milk," Garcelon said.

She said it's OK to give out raw milk at food banks but that there must be labels on the product and at the refrigerator storing the raw milk.

"Our department worked with the Sequim Food Bank to clarify the signage," Garcelon said. "Anywhere raw milk is sold there must be labeling and it needs to be visible at the business."

The creamery already places warnings on each product that it's not pasteurized and may contain harmful bacteria.

Health officials also caution infants, younger children, senior citizens, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems from consuming raw milk.

Community support

McCarthey said their intent with the approximate $10,600 in donations from the GoFundMe fundraiser started by Patti Bostwick was to offset costs when they sold and/or donated raw milk to food banks after the recall.

Bostwick, owner of Blue Mountain Baking Co., and a board member for the Sequim Farmers Market, said this was her first GoFundMe and she's grateful for the community support for them.

"I wanted to bless them somehow," she said.

Bostwick said she appreciates the farm's openness to the community.

"I just wanted to show how much we love them because they are always loving on us," she said.

The McCartheys said they appreciate the community's ongoing support and supporting food banks was one way they wanted to help others, too.

"(Donating to food banks) isn't something we do with expired product as a way of dumping it off, or to make money off of it when we sell it," McCarthey said. "In fact, if we set up an account to charge for it the cost is intended to reflect the extra labor and packaging to get the product delivered to the food bank."

Andra Smith, Sequim Food Bank executive director, said they've been purchasing raw milk from the creamery for two-plus years and they received 48 gallons from them on May 17.

"Our visitors love having the option of raw milk," she said. "It's really popular and runs out fast when it's available."

Smith said food bank visitors have to ask for raw milk because volunteers and staff don't take it from the refrigerator for display during distribution days.

Sequim Food Bank officials say they continue to seek out and advocate for creative and new options for in-need residents, including hot food recovery from local grocery stores and restaurants.

"We don't have the facilities for it," Smith said. "Maybe in the future, but not right now we can't."

She said county health officials remain great to work with and "work hard to make things work for the local food banks."

McCarthey said they support food banks because they know there are a lot of people who struggle with food insecurity.

"We feel as a provider of a nutrient dense food it's a great way we can help out those in need within our community," he said.

McCarthey said he feels the Sequim Food Bank has always made it clear what people receive from them, too.

"It seems to me that as long as the food bank is making it clear to the consumer which product they have the option of receiving, we're following the intent of the DOH regulation, which again is 'to help assure food provided to the needy is safe,'" he said.

Anniversary celebration

Dungeness Valley Creamery, 1915 Towne Road, hosts its annual celebration of becoming a raw milk jersey cow farm at 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, June 8.

The event features hay rides, tours, live music, product demos, food from Curbside Bistro, ice cream and more.

McCarthey said he looks at it as a way to meet up with customers again and have a fresh start following the voluntary recall. He and Sarah also continue to send in product sampling to a third-party laboratory of their cows to ensure no more E. coli issues arise.

"We wanted to make sure everything is clean and ready and have more peace of mind before the event," he said. "It's something we never would have thought about before but now we just want to make sure."