January 23, 2003
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Salmonella outbreak ‘over’; Enon couple sues Young’s

The Clark County Combined Health District said last week that the food poisoning outbreak at Young’s Jersey Dairy has been “contained.” In addition, Young’s will stop producing unpasteurized milk.

But the repercussions of December’s salmonella outbreak at the local business run deeper than first expected.

Last Wednesday, Jan. 15, a couple from Enon filed a lawsuit in the Clark County Common Pleas Court on behalf of their 16-month-old daughter, Racheal Tingley, against the dairy. Tom and Dana Tingley claim that Racheal became ill after consuming milk or a milk product from Young’s last month, said their attorney, Chris Clark of Troy. The Tingleys are seeking a punitive award of no less than $50,000.

The suit states that on or about Dec. 3, Racheal consumed food from Young’s that was “defective, unsafe, unwholesome, and unfit for human consumption in that it was contaminated with harmful microbes, including but not limited to a bacterium known as ‘salmonella.’ ” As a result, Racheal “became physically sick requiring medical attention and further suffered severe emotional distress, pain and suffering, and incurred medical bills and other consequential monetary damages,” the suit claims.

In addition, the suit says that as a result of their daughter’s illness, “Tom and Dana Tingley have been deprived of the society, companionship, attention, and comfort of their minor daughter, Racheal Tingley.’ ”

Young’s has 28 days from the time it received the lawsuit to file a response. In a recent phone interview, Young’s CEO Dan Young said he had “nothing to add” about the suit.

A day after the lawsuit was filed, Young’s announced that it would discontinue the sale of unpasteurized milk.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) last week recommended the business surrender its Raw Milk Retailer License after multiple samples of cream and butter made from whole milk bottled on Nov. 29 tested positive for salmonella, department spokeswoman Melanie Wilt said. Skim milk bottled on the same day had previously tested positive for salmonella.

Investigators have found in two other Ohio counties a strain of salmonella genetically identical to the one found at Young’s. Health officials are uncertain how the bacteria got to Young’s. The 55 people that have been confirmed for salmonella poisoning were found to have eaten at Young’s sometime between Nov. 29 and Dec. 19.

Clark said that Young’s made a good decision to stop selling raw milk and that it was in line with other retailers in Ohio.

Young’s Dairy began its operations by selling raw milk in the early 1900s, Young said. The business has continued as a raw milk retailer for almost 50 years and, until recently, was the only one remaining in Ohio. A grandfather clause in state law permitted retailers selling raw milk before October 1965 to continue selling it.

The ODA said that in order to continue selling raw milk today, Young’s would have to bring its milk processing and bottling procedure up to a certain standard. Young’s bottled its milk by hand at a very low volume and did not view upgrading the procedure as economically feasible, Young said. The business will begin selling pasteurized milk it purchases elsewhere.

“It’s a sad thing, but you just got to face reality as it is,” Young said. “One incident in 50 years sounds safe to me, but in today’s society that might not be safe enough.”

Raw, or unpasteurized, milk is widely known as a possible carrier of bacteria because it is not heat treated like pasteurized milk.

The bottled milk at Young’s was labeled with a warning sticker and its menus read “raw milk.” But the milkshakes, made with raw milk, were not clearly labeled, according to Clark County Health Commissioner Charles Patterson.

Whatever the outcome of the lawsuit, the food poisoning at Young’s has been contained.

“As far as we’re concerned, the outbreak itself is over, and Young’s is back to normal operations,” Patterson said.

—Lauren Heaton