Questionable Testing Methodologies?

Gordon Watson replies to the latest numbers being quoted by B.C. health officials for bacterial levels in Home on the Range milk samples. Gordon is replying to John Carsley’s comments following this post on the Bovine:

Gordon Watson with one of the Jersey cows from Home on the Range in Chilliwack, British Columbia

“Just now, our farmer got off the phone with Mark McAfee,  one of the world’s experts on dairying.  He operates Organic Pastures in California, which sells raw milk according to the high standards demanded by that state’s licensing program. Although we’re confident our milk is good, still, we needed to understand how tests on samples of raw milk from our herd could result in such high bacterial counts,  relative to the levels raw milk farms do meet in Washington and California

Mark explained that the numbers put out by Vancouver Coastal Health are irrelevant,  because the tests weren’t done properly.  The protocol used by Organic Pastures is to take a sample of the milk immediately it comes from the cows.  All samples are kept at 33 F,  while being delivered on ice, overnight, to the state laboratory. The milk is tested the next day.

Compare that to the way samples were done here.  First, the paper trail within Vancouver Coastal Health shows samples of our milk were not tested until some time between December 22 2009, and December 29 2009 … at least 6 days after being seized … maybe even 13 days.

Second; the samples arrived at the BC Centre for Disease Control lab over 40 degrees F. Which, alone, invalidates the tests. The testing done by independent lab JR Siliker

Mark McAfee says that if one were to take samples of dairy products made from pasteurized milk, on retail store shelves,  coliform counts would in the range for the numbers attributed to our milk.

I have to wonder if B C Centre for Disease Control knew that much, or not? Either they did, therefore deliberately mis-informed the public by using a standard that does not apply. Or they didn’t know what they were talking about. Yet were only too happy to blaze – apparently – damning statistics across the media firmament.

Later today I hope to speak with Joe Fung, at the BC CDC lab. and get right down to brass tacks as to how those numbers were arrived at.  Meanwhile,  the Health Authorities can say what they want …  here in the Fraser Valley the rain is coming down on our cows out in the field, and the REAL MILK is flowing – legally. This episode has proved the big point: cowsharing is legitimate in Canada.

A measure of success is political activism is when your opponents start using your terminology.  I am greatly amused that spokesmen for the Health Authorities are now referring to the Washington State levels for bacterial counts in raw milk … that would be legal raw milk.  We have won the conceptual point … I predict we shall see raw milk for sale in BC in 2010.  Which is all I ever asked for when I started lobbying the government on this issue, a mere decade ago!

Gordon S Watson

Justice critic, Party of Citizens

5 Comments

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5 responses to “Questionable Testing Methodologies?

  1. Michael

    This is very valuable in the whole discussion. Do we have even proper standards for testing raw milk in Canada?
    Around 2003 I did with an independent scientist and an independent lab a bacterial study on our milk and store bought milk. On the average the counts were lower in pasteurized milk, compared to raw milk. However we had situations where the bacterial count in the pasteurized milk was sky high including coli count. Out of concern for public health we contacted Health authorities, They simply dismissed the lab results and said, that this happens, but in fact is no real concern. There was NO follow up, and NO public announcement.
    If that would have been raw milk there would have been announcements all over the media.
    That’s why I think that there is no solution to this debate until we jointly sit down and develop voluntary standards and procedures to accommodate public health concerns.
    No sense blaming each other for wrong doing.
    However if Government keeps going to make blanket statements without consideration for the needs and concern for its people, than we have a right to question their real motives.
    This issue will not go away, even if the ruling goes against us.

  2. John

    I’m happy Mr. Watson is greatly amused, and conceptual points, I guess, are better than no points at all. But I don’t really view this as some sort of an intellectual debate, nor a contest over whom should win the most points.

    My example of US states’ standards was simply to be as generous as I could to Home on the Range, since standards for pasteurized milk are higher.

    If Home on the Range raw dairy feels the BC CDC results are not representative or fair, I guess they could post their own results for total bacteria and total coliforms for the batches seized.

  3. Michael

    A good start for a proper discussion could be a truce and an agreement to jointly test the products. Its a win win situation. But I do see the problem once Government agrees to enter into a discussion, the legality of the situation is difficult to question.
    My wife worked in Germany in a County District Hospital where they used raw milk from a local certified farm for their patients. No big deal.
    So why is everybody so uptight?
    OH I forgot, the dairy industry and the dairy farmers and the marketing boards all need the fear factor to keep the industry alive. Sorry I forgot

  4. Bernie Bailey

    A few things from some one has been there

    It is to late to take the reading of the samples now but I can not state strong enough that your own on sight sampling as well as private labs ( just go to the dairy and they will do it for a price)will be your winning flag.

    In the case of finally getting dialog with the government let me say that you can or should not let your selves fall into the oldest government trap and that is were they put together a panel of politically appointed no buddies who would not know which end of the cow to milk, for good public relations they will invite one of you . Your ideas and arguments will be drowned out .

    I stood in front of a judge in her chambers at Guelph in 98 and she said Mr. Bailey what they have done to you is immoral and unpractical but neither side is showing me evidence of why so I would through this out of court , I suggest you find the evidence before you come into my court room and I would rule in your favor as no judge would take the side of politically appointed commities against you because most of the appointees have no idea what they are doing.

    It took years through the freedom of information act and the Bankrupts of Parmalat to get those answers and know I find the time limit has run out for my case

    Still one vote and still looking for a way to get it in court

    PS the lawyer in this case went to work for the government after this case

  5. Pingback: B.C. health officials calling Home on the Range milk “highly contaminated” « The Bovine

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