ALIQUIPPA, Pa. — Brunton Dairy customers may get their wish: Milk and ice cream produced by the dairy may hit store shelves soon.
Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture George Greig and Pennsylvania State Senator Elder Vogel Jr. (R) made a visit to Brunton Dairy in Beaver County March 23 and toured the farm and the bottling facility.
The dairy has been shipping all of its milk to United Dairy since it stopped its own bottling production in October.
Late last summer, Brunton Dairy voluntarily quit bottling its own milk after some tests done by the Allegheny County Department of Health showed the bacteria Yersinia enterocolitica. The tests were performed after some customers reported becoming ill and being hospitalized after drinking skim milk and ice cream.
Then in October, some tests performed by the Pennsylvania Department Agriculture came back positive again for the Yersinia enterocolitica bacteria. Those tests have reportedly came back as false positives caused by errors at the PDA laboratory.
Brunton Dairy is bottling some milk and selling at their store at the farm. They are milking 90 Holsteins in their parlor, and they are bottling what they can sell in their store but have not resumed home delivery or wholesaling it to stores.
Greig told the farm owners and group in attendance that the dairy is a good example of value-added agriculture — taking a product straight from the farm and making it something consumers desire.
Greig said the dairy has been cleared and can resume full production and bottling in their own facilities.
“As far as I know, Brunton Dairy has a clean bill of health from the department of agriculture, but they have chosen to move slowly and do their own testing,” said Greig.
Herb Brunton said they are being cautious, but added the milk will be back in the stores soon.
“We had years of good quality milk and we want to get back to it,” said Brunton.
Currently, Brunton Dairy is utilizing a California lab to do its own testing for the bacteria and will not resume bottling until they are sure there is no sign of the bacteria.
Greig said food safety is something the PDA takes very seriously. The testing for bacteria is now parts per billion compared to parts per hundreds of thousands in the past, which means it is easier to find potential bacteria.
Greig admitted that the PDA tests did not show the bacteria, but the Allegheny Department of Health testing did. He also said that the majority of positive tests for bacteria show up at the county health department tests but not in the PDA tests.