April 13, 2012

2 Min Read
Raw Milk Linked to E. coli Illnesses in 2 States

PORTLAND, Ore. and ST. LOUIS, Mo.Public health officials in Portland, Ore. and St. Louis, Mo., are investigating outbreaks of Escherichia coli O157:H7 infections linked to the consumption of raw milk that have sickened 11 people, and hospitalized three children in Oregon and two children in Missouri. Four of the hospitalized kids developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a rare form of kidney failure.

As reported by local Portland affiliate KTVZ, the four children all reportedly drank unpasteurized milk from Foundation Farm located in Clackamas County. Foundation Farm distributes raw milk to 48 households that are part of a herd-share agreement where individuals contract to take ownership of a portion of a herd or individual animals. Foundation Farm has voluntarily ceased its milk distribution.

"Raw milk can carry harmful bacteria that can make you very sick or kill you," said State Epidemiologist Dr. Katrina Hedberg in a statement. Pasteurized milk has many health benefits. Raw milk is not any healthier than pasteurized milk and can carry illness-causing bacteria."

The investigation is ongoing.

The Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services said the E. coli cases have onset dates ranging from late March to early April. The agency has not yet determined the source of the bacteria; however, raw milk is a common denominator in most of the cases.

The debate over raw milk versus pasteurized milk has been brought to the forefront lately after a number out foodborne illness outbreaks have been linked to consumption of the unpasteurized beverage.

In February, 38 people in four states were sickened by raw milk contaminated with Campylobacter bacteria that was produced at The Family Cow farm in Chambersburg, Pa. The farm voluntarily suspended raw milk production on Jan. 27, and the Pennsylvania Department of Health issued a consumer alert to discard any product purchased after Jan. 1.

A recent study published in the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC) journal Emerging Infectious Diseases found the rate of outbreaks caused by raw milk and products made from it was 150 times greater than outbreaks linked to pasteurized milk. The 13-year review also revealed that the states where the sale of raw milk was legal had more than twice the rate of outbreaks as states where it was illegal.

The study also found that the raw milk product outbreaks led to much more severe illnesses, and disproportionately affected people under age 20. In the raw milk outbreaks with known age breakdowns, 60% of patients were younger than age 20, compared to 23% in outbreaks from pasteurized products. Children are more likely than adults to get seriously ill from the bacteria in raw milk.

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