The fate of Pennings Sisters Dairy is uncertain after a recent sampling of unpasteurized, raw milk came back positive for Listeria monocytogenes, prompting the owners to turn in their state-issued permit to sell the product.
Ordinarily, the next step after a positive result would be remediation and resampling to ensure that the product is free of harmful bacteria, however, the dairy has ceased operations, according to the state Department of Agriculture and Markets.
Multiple attempts to reach dairy owners Jack or Monica Pennings for comment were unsuccessful, and future plans for the dairy are unknown.
According to the department, the bacteria causes listeriosis, which can be a serious and sometimes fatal infection in young children, cancer patients, elderly people and others with weakened immune systems.
Although otherwise healthy people may only suffer short-term, flu-like symptoms, listeriosis can cause miscarriages and stillbirths in pregnant women.
To date, no illnesses associated with the product have been reported to the department.
The dairy was notified of a preliminary positive test result on Jan. 15, with further laboratory testing confirming the bacteria’s presence in the sample on Jan. 21, the department said.
The department recommends that anyone who purchased raw milk from Pennings Sisters Dairy immediately dispose of it and call the owners at (845) 742-2011.
Freedom Hill Farm owner Julie said that the positive Listeria result at the Warwick dairy was unfortunate but “could happen to anybody.”
“It could be found on any farm,” she said. “But most farm’s milk goes to the creamery, where it gets pasteurized.”
According to the department, raw milk does not provide the benefits of pasteurization. Pasteurization is a process that heats milk to a specific temperature for a set period of time, which kills the bacteria responsible for numerous illnesses and diseases such as listeriosis, salmonellosis, campylobacteriosis, typhoid fever, tuberculosis, diphtheria and brucellosis.
The process is recognized internationally as an effective means of preventing outbreaks of foodborne illnesses, the department said.
A small dairy operation in Otisville, Julie said that Freedom Hill Farm’s raw milk is stored cold after collection.
“The colder you keep it, the less bacteria and the longer it lasts,” she said.
Pennings Sisters Dairy is located at Pennings Orchard at 169 State Route 94 in Warwick.