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Raw Milk Blamed in Colorado Outbreak

Colorado has ordered the Billy Goat Dairy to stop selling raw milk after 16 of its customers became ill.

Two of the 16 were children who required hospitalization, the Boulder County Public Health Department said Wednesday.

Laboratory tests on the ill confirmed the presence of both Campylobacter and E. coli O157:H7, officials said.

Both types of bacteria are found in the intestines of animals and can be passed in their feces to food, water, and milk products.  Pasteurization kills Campylobacter and E. coli bacteria.

The Billy Goat Dairy, located at Longmont, CO, operates a goat share program in which individuals buy a share of a goat and in return receive raw, unpasteurized milk.

Health officials are contacting Billy Goat customers who participate in the goat share operation to determine if they became sick and to collect samples.

Boulder County Public Health Department officials said the Billy Goat Dairy is cooperating with the investigation.

“We strongly advise residents to avoid consuming any raw milk or milk products,” said Murielle Romine with the health department. “It can be extremely dangerous, particularly for young children and people with weakened immune systems.”

During pasteurization, the temperature of milk is raised to at least 161 F for more than 15 seconds, and then rapidly cooled. In addition to helping extend milk’s shelf life, many harmful bacteria are destroyed, including E.coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Listeria.

The Centers for Disease Control identified 45 outbreaks of foodborne illness that implicated raw milk or cheese made from raw milk between 1998 and May 2005. These outbreaks accounted for 1,007 illnesses, 104 hospitalizations and two deaths.

More importantly, the latest incident in Boulder County is the tenth or eleventh raw milk outbreak this year, according to Bill Marler, the nationally recognized food safety attorney.

Symptoms of Campylobacteriosis, the illness caused by Campylobacter infection, include fever, diarrhea (sometimes bloody), abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting.  Serious cases can lead to Guillain-Barre syndrome, permanent paralysis, and possibly death.  Symptoms of E. coli infection include severe diarrhea (frequently bloody), abdominal cramping, and sometimes vomiting.  Serious cases of E. coli can lead to Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, which can cause kidney failure and possibly death.

Health officials urge anyone who has become ill after consuming raw milk or milk products from Billy Goat Dairy to call the Boulder County Public Health Communicable Disease Control program at 303-441-1460.

If illness continues, residents should contact their doctor.

More information about the risks of consuming unpasteurized milk and other dairy products is available at Real Raw Milk Facts.

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