Salmonella found inside Minnesota dairy

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A grade B dairy in Winthrop, MN owned by the giant milk-marketing cooperative known as Dairy Farmers of America was found contaminated with Salmonella senftenberg during a routine inspection.

It does not appear that anyone became ill from the dairy plant contamination.

In a Jan. 24 warning letter to the Kansas City-based Dairy Farmers of America, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said environmental samples returned from an inspection last September were positive for Salmonella S.

"During the inspection FDA collected a sample of medium heat, extra grade non-fat dry milk powder, and a total of 106 environmental swabs were taken throughout your processing facility," the warning letter says. "Laboratory analysis of sample number 638534 confirmed the presence of Salmonella senftenberg in three environmental swabs."

FDA did not disclose the exact source or location of the contamination.

"Salmonella senftenberg is a pathogenic organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with a weakened immune systems," FDA continued. "Healthy individuals may suffer short-term symptoms such as severe diarrhea, bloody diarrhea, fever, chills, adnominal discomfort, and occasionally vomiting."

Grade A milk is sold for direct consumption for sale in retail stores; whereas Grade B milk is used to make other products like cheese. Grade A milk is subjected to more inspection.

The 15-year old Dairy Farmers of America, formed from a number of milk marketing cooperatives, represents more than 9,500 farms with 1.7 million cows. It owns 21 manufacturing plants, including three in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The warning letter also called out Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) for a number of violations found during the inspection. Those included:

-- DFA failed to clean or sanitize equipment in a manner that protects against contamination of food and food contact surfaces.

FDA said the high-pressure foamers being used to sanitize equipment could atomize microorganisms that will contaminate food, food contact surfaces or food packaging materials.

-- DFA failed to clean and sanitize food contact surfaces with enough frequency to present the contamination of food.

-- DFA employees failed to wash and sanitize their hands thoroughly in an adequate hand-washing facility.

FDA said Dairy Farmers of America did not adequately address its concern after the inspection, and gave it 15 works days from receipt of the warning letter to do so.

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