Friday, February 3, 2012

Raw Milk and Campylobacter - Outbreak in PA

There are now close to 40 cases of Campylobacteriosis related to raw milk sold by a Pennsylvania dairy (Franklin County). Although the Campylobacter bacteria has been isolated from bottles of the milk, proponents march on in defense of raw milk – either denying it was the milk, or claiming their right to drink raw milk (read comment on the bottom of page by an advocate).

Campylobacter is a very serious illness. From the CDC (
Campylobacteriosis is an infectious disease caused by bacteria of the genus Campylobacter. Most people who become ill with campylobacteriosis get diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever within two to five days after exposure to the organism. The diarrhea may be bloody and can be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. The illness typically lasts one week. Some infected persons do not have any symptoms. In persons with compromised immune systems, Campylobacter occasionally spreads to the bloodstream and causes a serious life-threatening infection.
I believe that people do have the right to drink raw milk, eat raw eggs, and eat raw oysters. But, people need to understand the real risk associated with these products AND society should not pick up the cost once they become sick, or perhaps even ensuring compliance of raw milk producers (that should be built into the cost of product).

Number of people with illnesses linked to raw milk rising in Pa., Md. W.Va.
Lab tests confirm bacteria's presence in raw milk from Chambersburg dairyFebruary 02, 2012|By JENNIFER FITCH |

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — Maryland health officials say laboratory tests have confirmed the presence of the illness-causing bacteria, Campylobacter jejuni, in two unopened samples purchased from the Family Cow farm in Chambersburg
The number of people in Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and New Jersey stricken with illness after consuming raw, unpasteurized milk from the same farm has risen to 37, the Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed Thursday.

Pennsylvania officials said their tests for bacteria in samples had not yet yielded results.

Later Thursday, the Berkeley County (W.Va.) Health Department reported that two Eastern Panhandle residents were stricken with the Campylobacter bacteria, according to a news release. The health department attributes the cases to the Family Cow farm outbreak, the release said.

The Family Cow farm sells raw milk at its farm store and at drop-offs, grocery stores and markets around Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, the Lehigh Valley and southcentral Pennsylvania. According to the Family Cow website, the farm has decided to temporarily stop selling milk.

Thirty states, including Pennsylvania, allow raw milk sales, according to the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture.

Sales are prohibited in Maryland.
In Pennsylvania, 153 facilities hold raw milk permits from the state agriculture department, agency spokeswoman Samantha Krepps said.

Five farms in Franklin County appear on a permits list on the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s website.

“They have to pass an inspection by the department of agriculture,” Krepps said of farms seeking a permit.

The inspection involves the milking parlor, storage areas, temperatures and distribution practices, Krepps said. Farmers also are required to ensure there are consumer notices on containers and displays, she said.
After the initial inspection, permitted farms are required to submit to four inspections each year. They must file veterinary documents ensuring herd health with the agriculture department’s food safety division.

Phil Wagner grew up on a dairy farm and spent 36 years as a Penn State Cooperative Extension educator before retiring in 2010.

Wagner said he saw raw milk sales start to become trendy about five or six years ago when consumers started seeking “natural” foods.

“There have been people selling raw milk for years. ... It’s nothing new,” Wagner aid.

 However, farmers who sold to neighbors 20 years ago got away from the practice because of permitting, he said.

“It’s a very niche market, and you only have a certain amount of consumers,” Wagner said.

Logan Horst, who was raised on a Chambersburg-area dairy farm, is a Penn State Cooperative Extension dairy educator in Franklin County.

Horst said selling raw milk gives farmers an opportunity to control their own marketing, rather than selling to a cooperative and having their pasteurized milk fall under regulated prices at the grocery store.

“People are willing to spend more for (raw milk) for whatever benefits they perceive it has,” he said.

Horst consumed raw milk in his youth. He feels it did not cause him illness because it was only hours old and his body was tolerant to it.

“I grew up on raw milk, never got sick off it or thought about safety,” he said.

Milk-drinkers cannot see or smell the harmful bacteria, according to Martin Bucknavage, a senior food safety extension associate for Penn State.

“It’s a pretty severe disease when people get it,” Bucknavage said, saying symptoms often last four to six days.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns about harmful bacteria in raw milk on its website. However, organizations like the Weston A. Price Foundation say raw milk builds a person’s immune system.

The milk industry started pasteurizing its products by heating them when it realized longer shipping times were sickening entire blocks of people decades ago, Bucknavage said.

Campylobacter jejuni can be ingested by mishandling food, particularly poultry, at home. Bucknavage said periodic outbreaks are not uncommon in the United States, although having more than two dozen people involved is rare.

“Everybody has to recognize there is a risk when consuming raw milk,” he said.

Campylobacter affects the intestinal tract and can sometimes affect the bloodstream and other organs. It is one of the most common causes of gastroenteritis, which includes vomiting and diarrhea.

The Berkeley County Health Department recommends that anyone who has consumed raw milk in the past few weeks and is experiencing the above symptoms contact their health provider.

Raw milk facilities in Franklin County
Five farms that have a permit to sell raw milk:
1. BMB Farm, St. Thomas-Edenville Road, Chambersburg, Pa.,
2. Son Rise Farm, Amberson Road, Spring Run, Pa.
3. Stoney Ridge Farm, Swamp Fox Road, Chambersburg.
4. Family Cow LLC, Old Scotland Road, Chambersburg.
5. Wadel’s Dairy, White Church Road, Shippensburg, Pa.
Link to Maryland State Laboratory release:

Raw-milk advocates say they won't change dairy habits, even as state probes possible illness link to Chambersburg-area farmPublished: Wednesday, February 01, 2012, 5:00 AM
By SUE GLEITER, The Patriot-NewsThe Patriot-News

Lisa Carter is a raw-milk convert. 

Eleven years ago, medical issues prompted her to change her diet to organic foods and raw milk. Unlike regular milk, raw milk is not pasteurized. It is preferred by many who say it has more enzymes and nutrients that promote good health.

Raw milk has surged in popularity. Those who drink it say they like the natural taste. It reminds them of the milk, delivered by milkmen, that they grew up drinking. 
“I just got healthy again,” said Carter, general manager of The Healthy Grocer in Hampden Township. 

Raw-milk advocates such as Carter say they aren’t about to change their dairy habits, even as state health officials investigate the possibility that raw milk from a Chambersburg-area farm is linked to 20 confirmed cases of an intestinal infection. 

The state Department of Health is awaiting results of tests on raw milk from The Family Cow. 

The Health Department said 16 people in Pennsylvania and four in Maryland who drank the milk from the farm came down with a bacterial infection known as campylobacter. Some people have been hospitalized, but none have died, state officials said. 

The state Department of Agriculture will continue testing raw milk from the farm. 

The Family Cow voluntarily stopped selling the milk at The Healthy Grocer and other outlets late last week.

“For the most part, the people that buy raw milk understand that there may be some risks associated with it,” said Tom Maurer, owner of Palmyra Real Food Emporium in Palmyra. “But the benefits are so far ahead of those minuscule risks that they are going to buy it. It tastes better, and it’s better for you.”

He sells raw milk from two suppliers in Myerstown, Lebanon County, in his small market, which focuses on locally produced foods. The milk sells for $5.25 a gallon. 

Those who buy it range from young families to senior citizens. Older customers are less intimidated by raw milk, mainly because they drank it while growing up, Maurer said. 

It is when the milk is improperly handled that it becomes dangerous, Maurer said. 

“Farmers who produce raw milk are producing it because their customers want a really high-quality product. Sometimes things happen, but you also fall down the steps, too. People decide if they want to buy the raw milk. We’re not forcing them to buy it,” he said. 

The popularity of raw milk troubles many health officials. 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prior to pasteurization becoming widespread before 1950, many people regularly contracted illnesses transmitted in milk. The CDC views pasteurization as one of the most important food-safety developments ever made. 

The agency warns that raw milk — and cheese and yogurt made with raw milk — can become contaminated with bacteria that can cause severe illness and even death.

The CDC says there are no proven health benefits in drinking raw milk. 

“There is always a risk when it comes to raw milk, and that is why pasteurization was put into place,” said Martin Bucknavage, senior food safety extension associate at Penn State University. 

The risk comes with the various bacteria connected to cows, he said. Some people build a tolerance to certain bacteria, but some bacteria prove to be very dangerous, Bucknavage said.

“When you consume raw milk, there is just a higher risk of contracting a foodborne illness, and that’s the risk you take,” he added. 

Twenty states prohibit sales of raw milk. 

Raw milk retains passionate supporters. Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul has argued that consumers should have the choice of drinking raw milk. 

Demand for raw milk has escalated in the last decade. The number of Pennsylvania farms with permits to sell raw milk has grown from about 20 to between 130 and 150, said Brian Snyder, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture. 

“If you think about it, it is consistent with the whole local food trend. It’s a nonprocessed product, which is what the local food trend is about,” he said. 

Amy Leber, who runs Shared Earth Farm in Silver Spring Township, sells raw milk from Apple Valley Creamery in East Berlin to those who sign up to buy shares of produce she grows on her farm. 

She converted to raw milk about five years ago after suffering stomach issues she thought were linked to drinking pasteurized milk. 

“More of us are realizing there are things we can use that don’t cause stomachaches,” she said. 

At The Healthy Grocer, Carter said people are turning to raw milk for various reasons, including allergies. The store sells milk from Kingfisher, a dairy in Elizabethtown, and has sold Family Cow products. 

In recent days, many customers have called the store concerned about the raw milk. 

“I don’t want raw milk to get a bad name,” Carter said. 

Illness cases increase
The state Department of Health said Tuesday that 20 people might have been sickened by raw milk from a Chambersburg-area farm. 

The state was still awaiting test results to determine whether milk from the Family Cow caused the illnesses. 

The department said it had 20 confirmed cases of people with a bacterial infection called campylobacter — an increase from a dozen cases on Monday. The infection can cause severe diarrhea and vomiting. Some had to be hospitalized, the Health Department. None had died. 

The company has voluntarily stopped selling the milk, and the Health Department advises customers to discard any Family Cow products purchased after Jan. 1. 

Comments from article:
“I am just amazed at the amount of ignorance that people are displaying here. Those who fear raw milk are having an emotional reaction based on what they *think* might be true. There is a general lack of knowledge about the history of pasteurization and the process of producing milk intended to be consumed raw. Educate yourselves, people! Not only that, but compared to outbreaks of food borne illnesses from other foods, raw milk has a great track record. But essentially the issue comes down to freedom. Why does the government have the right to tell me I can't drink it because there is a very small possibility I will get sick? Slap a warning label on it and be done. I am an adult and can make my own decisions. Full disclosure, I am customer of that farm in Chambersburg. I drank a lot of the milk currently under scrutiny, and didn't get sick. I have nothing but respect for my farmer. And if it turns out the illness did come from their milk, I will STILL drink it in the future. And that is nobody's business but mine.”


  1. By the time the officials found out and tested the milk that batch of milk is long gone. As far as bacteria being detected, how long after did they test those certain milk bottles? Did anyone think that maybe the natural milk product was detoxing these people's polluted bodies as natural herbs do when you buy them from GNC. One side affect from human detoxing is diarrhea, fever, all of the same symptoms. Sickness is a good response to getting healthy. We suppress our immune systems and we shouldn't. Haven't you ever threw up and then felt better. The milk replenished the guy flora and a huge war between good and bad bacteria started is what occurred.

    1. What about those that succumb to diarrhea?
      What about the long term effects of infection?