Most vegetarians and vegans are aware that dairy
products contribute to many chronic life-threatening diseases including
heart disease, diabetes, obesity and some types of cancer. Few consider
that dairy products can kill outright. Recently, a listeria outbreak
traced to Whittier Farms in nearby Shrewsbury, MA, resulted in the
deaths of three elderly men and a miscarried pregnancy by a woman in her
thirties. Several other individuals were sickened, but recovered. The
first fatality occurred last June, and the final fatality, occurred
January 3 of this year. Only after that fatality were the cases finally
linked to their common source.
State officials closed the plant upon tracing the
deadly bacteria to Whittier Farms. After studying over 100 samples,
state health inspectors said they were unable determine the precise
source of contamination. The deadly bacteria was found in seven bottles
and on the floor near the homogenizer at the Shrewsbury plant. Different
listeria strains were found inside four other bottles of milk and at
three different areas inside the plant.
“The final results of the tests from the state–instead
of narrowing it down–the area kept getting bigger. It made it extremely
hard for us, because we still don’t have answers,” said Wayne Whittier,
one of the dairy owners. Whittier milk was sold under the names
Whittier, Schultz, Balance Rock, Spring Brook, and Maple.
Citing the expense involved in assuring the plant
would be free of infection, the Whittier's decided to permanently close
the bottling plant where the listeria outbreak was found.
Despite the lack of “answers” regarding the exact
source and extent of the outbreak, Whittier continues to operate a dairy
in Sutton, MA, which now ships its milk to other processors. The
Whittier retail operation in Shrewsbury continues to sell dairy products
processed and bottled by other processors.
Listeria is exceedingly dangerous to the elderly,
pregnant women, infants, and individuals with weakened immune systems.
Healthy adults who contract listeriosis suffer from flu-like symptoms
but typically recover quickly.
(This story based on wire service reports)
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