Nanaimo woman says drinking recalled milk caused intestinal bleeding
CTV Vancouver Island
Published Monday, June 19, 2017 4:36PM PDT
Last Updated Monday, June 19, 2017 6:43PM PDT
A Nanaimo woman is demanding answers after she says she became violently ill from drinking milk affected by a province-wide recall.
Tanya Heipel said she poured Natrel 1% milk, produced by Agropur Cooperative, into a bowl of cereal she was eating Saturday afternoon.
“About 20 minutes later, I felt pain and cramps in my stomach and shortly after had to go to the bathroom,” said Heipel.
She said she then experienced severe diarrhea and noticed blood in her stool, which lasted for some time.
The symptoms lessened after a day, and that’s when Heipel learned her milk was affected by a recall notice.
Natrel four-litre 1% is one of 19 products that were recalled by Agropur on June 15 due to “harmful extraneous material.”
RCMP are now investigating whether someone intentionally tampered with the Island Farms, Lucerne and Natrel products at its Victoria production facility.
“I checked my bottle, my jug of milk, and it had exactly the numbers that are recalled. So I became quite scared because I have these symptoms. I’m otherwise a totally healthy person,” she said. “I did some research online. There was nothing disclosed other than it’s contaminated with harmful foreign material.”
Heipel says she’s terrified because neither Agropur nor RCMP will tell her what she possibly ingested.
“That is the part that’s really hard psychologically to deal with for myself and my family, because I don’t know what I was actually exposed to that caused these symptoms and bleeding,” she said. “Is this something that’s going to have lasting effects? I don’t know what it is, and that makes it even harder.”
The company remains tight-lipped about what prompted the recall notice. Asked again about it Monday, a spokesperson for Agropur said the company could not provide any more information “to avoid compromising the ongoing police investigation.”
It has since moved production of milk jugs from Victoria to Burnaby.
Agropur also insisted the quality of the milk itself isn’t affected, and that there have been no health issues reported – something Heipel takes issue with.
“I just want others to know, although the food agency reported no injuries have been reported, well I am one who is reporting one,” she said. “By all means people should be careful to not give this milk to especially children or people who are trusting that this is not contaminated.”
Heipel’s complaint follows a similar one made by a Vancouver Island woman over the weekend, who did not want to be identified.
The woman told CTV News her husband became extremely ill after drinking Island Farms homogenized milk, and then her infant son started throwing up after drinking it from his bottle.
On Friday, Saanich woman Michelle Crawford said her husband found green debris, which she described as “five or six specks of what looked like scrubby, torn-up sponge,” in his glass of milk.
Victoria lawyer Michael Mulligan said if it is determined that people suffered harm as a result of drinking the milk, they would be entitled to compensation from the producer.
“If somebody drank something and got sick, wasn’t able to go to work, had some other loss, they could be compensated for that if they sued civilly,” said Mulligan. “If there was a large number of people who all suffered a similar loss, that’s the sort of circumstance in which class-action proceedings might make sense.”
The RCMP told CTV News Monday that its investigation into possible tampering is ongoing and that it’s working with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
The recall only applies to two-and-four litre plastic jugs and not cartons. Some of the products are only distributed on Vancouver Island while others are distributed to the rest of the province.
It only applies to identified products with best before dates up to and including July 3, 2017.
A full list of the recalled products can be found below:
Nanaimo woman Tanya Heipel said she consumed Natrel 1% milk, produced by Agropur Cooperative, Saturday afternoon and became violently ill about 20 minutes later. June 19, 2017. (CTV Vancouver Island)
Some of the recalled dairy products are seen in this image from CFIA.