FDA recalls Fresno’s RAW FARMS cheese

RAW FARMS LLC alleges bias at the FDA for issuing a recall of the company’s raw milk cheddar products

(RAW FARM usa website)
Derek Fleming
Published February 28, 2024  • 
1:00 pm

FRESNO – The Food and Drug Administration informed RAW FARMS LLC in Fresno that one of its products was potentially contaminated with E. Coli, leading to a voluntary recall on Feb. 16.

RAW FARMS believes the recall effort was fraudulent after repeated testing of the suspected batches of raw milk cheddar cheese failed to show evidence of contamination. President of RAW FARMS Aaron McAfee said in a press release that the effort by the FDA was targeted against his company’s raw milk products out of bias.

McAfee called attention in the press release to a post by Dr. Stic Harris, Director at the FDA, advising the public not to consume products from RAW FARMS.

While my personal opinion is you should never drink raw milk or eat raw milk products, you certainly don’t want to eat raw milk cheese linked to an ongoing outbreak…,” Harris posted alongside an image of the company’s products that links to the recall page.

The FDA cautions that E. Coli infection symptoms can range from a mild upset stomach and diarrhea to death in severe cases and symptoms can develop over nine days from infection. One person developed a condition known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a serious condition that can lead to kidney failure.

According to the recall, all 10 cases showed a DNA similarity in the specific type of E. Coli, indicating a common source of infection.

To test the products that have been alleged to be contaminated by the FDA, RAW FARMS utilized a facility that is certified by the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation, a third-party entity. That company, Food Safety Net Services, along with independent testing by the California Food and Drug Administration, did not reveal any contamination according to RAW FOODS.

A total of 15 samples were also tested by the California Public Health and Safety Board and nine samples were tested by the Utah Public Health and Safety Board with no positive results for E. Coli contamination.

RAW FARMS claims the recall has since been lifted, but that information cannot be confirmed by The Sun-Gazette. The FDA and the CDFA did not respond to requests for comment by The Sun-Gazette.

Local retailers who sell the products including Sprouts Market in Visalia said they sell the cheddar cheese involved in the recall, but media contacts for the company did not respond to questions about whether products were pulled from shelves.

According to the press release announcing the recall, four cases of E. Coli were detected in California, three in Colorado, two in Utah and one in Texas were blamed on RAW FOODS products. Four of the cases led to hospitalizations, but no deaths were reported. Only three-fifths of the cases report consuming RAW FARMS products.

“State and local public health officials have interviewed people about the foods they ate in the week before they became ill. Six (75%) ill people reported consuming RAW FARM- brand Raw Cheddar cheese,” the recall states.

Among the issues that McAfee took in the FDA’s issuance of the recall was the fact that retailers were notified hours before the producer and the recall notice took the seemingly unusual step of issuing what McAfee calls a “forever directive.”

“Do not eat, sell, or serve RAW FARM-brand Raw Cheddar cheese products,” the recall reads. “Check your refrigerators and freezers for the RAW FARM-brand Raw Cheddar cheese (blocks or shredded) and throw them away. If you froze a product without the original packaging and can’t identify the brand, throw it away.”

The recall makes no mention of a date range of products in the advice given to retailers and consumers, giving the impression that these products, regardless of batch or date, should be disposed of. According to RAW FARMS, the FDA suspected contamination of products produced between Sept. 12 and Dec. 19, 2023.

Derek Fleming
Mid Valley Times | Contributor