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Grade School Parent Sickens Class with Raw Milk

Fourth graders at a Raymond, Wisconsin elementary school got a painful lesson earlier this month. They drank unpasteurized milk at a North Cape Elementary School event on Friday, June 3 and by Monday 16 individuals — students and some adults — were suffering from diarrhea, abdominal cramping, nausea, and vomiting from Campylobacter infections. 

The raw milk was one parent’s contribution to the school event.

milkracine-iphone.jpgThe parent, whose name was not disclosed, runs a licensed farm — also not identified — that is in good standing with the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Protection. Donating raw milk is not illegal, and the parent will not face sanctions nor will the dairy suffer a blemish on its record.

Wisconsin health authorities, however, confirmed that the milk was the source of the outbreak.

In a joint statement issued late Friday, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) and the Western Racine County Health Department (WRCHD) said : “Laboratory test results show that the Campylobactor jejuni bacteria that caused diarrheal illness among 16 individuals who drank unpasteurized (raw) milk at a school event early this month in Raymond was the same bacteria strain found in unpasteurized milk produced at a local farm.”

The WRCHD said stool samples submitted by ill students and adults were sent to the State Laboratory of Hygiene, where they tested positive for the bacteria.  Wisconsin’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) food inspectors said milk samples collected from the bulk tank at the farm also tested positive for Campylobacter jejuni. 

Further testing by the State Hygiene lab showed the bacteria from the stool samples and the milk samples were a genetic match. Additionally, interviews with event attendees revealed that consuming the unpasteurized milk was statistically associated with illness. 

Health officials said this combination of laboratory and epidemiologic evidence indicates that the illnesses were caused by the unpasteurized milk consumed at the school event.

Campylobacter jejuni bacteria can cause diarrhea, which can be bloody, abdominal cramping, fever, nausea and vomiting. Rarely, an infection may lead to paralysis after initial symptoms have disappeared. Campylobacter can be transmitted by consuming food contaminated directly or indirectly by animal feces or handled by someone with the infection who has not adequately washed hands after using the bathroom.

© Food Safety News
  • Lisa Bondeson

    Why is it that our government doesn’t have a problem with someone purposely feeding children food laced with bacteria? This is not ok. Would the parents of the affected children have the right to take legal action to cover medical expenses?

  • Maria

    When will people learn that it’s not OK to feed animal products to children (or adults for that matter). I am sick of the dairy and animal production industries being given so many free passes when they cause so much harm.

  • George Wilson

    One would think Child Protective Services for the State of Wisconsin would take interest for this unfortunate situation for the innocent children.
    Would not the Dairy Farm & Parent who provided the raw milk should be held accountable and liable for causing harm to these children regardless of having consent, or not from the parents of the children infected?
    If the parents did provide consent then would they not be held accountable and liable under the laws for child abuse?

  • Chris Herrmann

    Duty…breach of duty…probable cause…damages.

  • nic

    Really people? I don’t know what’s worse — all of you who are advocating litigation over a few cases of kids getting diarrhea at a school event, or the locavore nutter who gave the kids the squirts in the first place. And using this as an excuse to push whatever weird vegan agenda you have takes the cake…
    There truly are not enough sensible people left in this country. A few kids got the shits. If this is so egregious to you, then you really need to get a life.

  • Holiday Davis

    @Lisa Bondeson – your comment confused me. Bacteria is almost everywhere, including in our own bodies, almost all the time. Your comment is phrased in a way that makes it seem like you believe that the dairy farmer intended to make people sick, which I highly doubt. Also, at some point things have to come down to individual responsibility. The government can’t “protect” you from everything, nor should they.
    @Maria – I just want to make sure you are aware that lots of fruit and vegetable products also cause harm – sprouts, spinach, peppers – all have been linked at one time or another to widespread and harmful infections.
    All that said – raw milk is wonderful stuff. So much better for you than ultra-pasterized, “enriched” conventional glop, and WAY better tasting too!

  • Debbie Bonenfant

    @Holiday Davis – I agree with you – I have been drinking raw cow and goats milk for about 5 years and have never been sick. I have to wonder how the animals are raised i.e. are they out on the pasture eating what their bodies are designed to eat. I have heard ultra pasturized milk with growth hormones and antibiotics described as milk-like poison. I also have to wonder why we are even having problems with vegetables – could it be that they are watered with water contaminated with run off from factory farms? Sad thing is – we cannot trust the Dept of Agriculture or the FDA

  • mrothschild

    Debbie: How fortunate that raw milk hasn’t made you sick yet. So many others have not been so lucky, and have suffered painful diarrheal diseases, kidney failure and even paralysis from E. coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter and the other pathogens healthy, grass-fed cows and other ruminants shed in their excrement that can contaminate milk. To clear up your misconceptions, and to read the stories of people who want to raise awareness of the potential risks of drinking unpasteurized milk, go to http://www.realrawmilkfacts.com/

  • Mary Rothschild

    Debbie: How fortunate that raw milk hasn’t made you sick yet. So many others have not been so lucky, and have suffered painful diarrheal diseases, kidney failure and even paralysis from E. coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter and the other pathogens healthy, grass-fed cows and other ruminants shed in their excrement that can contaminate milk. To clear up your misconceptions, and to read the stories of people who want to raise awareness of the potential risks of drinking unpasteurized milk, go to http://www.realrawmilkfacts.com/

  • Debbie Bonenfant

    Hi Mary – I and thousands of others drink raw milk (either cow or goat) and do not get sick. Why is that? Luck has nothing to do with it. Obviously the people that do not get sick are drinking the milk of healthy animals – animals that are being raised humanely (i.e. raised on the pasture eating proper food period (soy and corn are not proper). These are healthy animals and as such produce healthy food and milk. This is not a misconception. The sad thing is most of the milk in this country is produced from animals that are given growth hormone to make them produce more milk which makes them sick and given antibiotics and to top it off fed with soy and corn that their bodies are not designed to eat. How can these poor animals produce anything healthy? This, by the way, is also one of the main reasons why there are so many recalls of meat and eggs. Again these are not misconceptions.

  • mrothschild

    Debbie: Healthy cows and goats can have pathogens in their guts and shed these pathogens in their excrement. These pathogens don’t make the cows and goats sick, but when their feces get into milk or on meat or vegetables, they can make humans sick. In some cases, very sick. Again, I think you and others who choose to drink unpasteurized milk are fortunate to escape illness, and I assume you understand and take personal responsibility for what’s at stake. But why deny that other people have taken the gamble and lost? Read their stories at http://www.realrawmilkfacts.com.

  • Holiday Davis

    @Debbie & Mary – What’s interesting is that you two aren’t really talking about the same thing. Debbie seems to be talking about raw milk, the product itself, and Mary about raw milk production, or the process used to get & distribute the product. Because looked at in that way, I agree with both of you. I think raw milk itself is a wonderful, healthful food substance, and that when milked from a healthy, happy cow in a safe and hygenic way, it should never, ever come into contact with feces or urine. I have personally milked cows in this way – and not once, on a farm tour or something, but at my parents farm throughout most of my childhood. At the same time, I can also see that if the milk processor or dairy farmer does not take care with their hygene, there is a chance of harmful bacteria getting into the milk. I guess my point is, if you like it (like me!), drink raw milk. But to be smart, go to your source, ask the dairy farmer questions, watch the cows being milked, watch the process. If this is what you mean by “personal responsibility”, Mary, then I think you’re right. @Debbie – Keep up the fight, girl!

  • Mary Rothschild

    Debbie: Healthy cows and goats can have pathogens in their guts and shed these pathogens in their excrement. These pathogens don’t make the cows and goats sick, but when their feces get into milk or on meat or vegetables, they can make humans sick. In some cases, very sick. Again, I think you and others who choose to drink unpasteurized milk are fortunate to escape illness, and I assume you understand and take personal responsibility for what’s at stake. But why deny that other people have taken the gamble and lost? Read their stories at http://www.realrawmilkfacts.com.

  • Eugene

    Holiday- You are right on target. I am a health inspector and have heard horror stories about states that allow retail sale of raw milk (mine does not). That said I have heard little to nothing concerning individuals drinking raw milk from their own cows. When you mass produce or distribute a product you raise the risk dramatically. There are many places in the process that can go wrong (milking, bottling, storage, shipping, etc.). That is why there is a difference between cooking in your home kitchen and a comercial restaurant.
    That said several of these diseases have relatively recently emerged. Salmonella and campylobacter were not an issue decades ago. Something has changed. There is debate over if it is chemicals, antibiotic, mass farming techniques, population density, etc. but there are different risks now. We can talk all day about why, but once something is in the environment you may not be able to change that. You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. What was safe in the past may not be safe now.

  • Doc Mudd

    Eugene, you need to brush up on your history, pardner…
    http://www.ehow.com/about_5245889_salmonella-history.html
    Salmonella and campylobacter have been around for generations and generations, much longer than “decades ago”. Your “debate” over the how & why of food poisoning is a knee-slapper, too.
    Been drinkin’ the KoolAid, haven’t ya? You sure that’s “toothpaste” your squeezin’ back into the tube, not Preparation-H?

  • Eugene

    Doc Mudd: Thank you for questioning me so that I can clarify. Salmonella species has been around for ages. Salmonella enteritidis rates spiked in the 1980’s making it a bigger concern. See http://www.cdc.gov/nczved/divisions/dfbmd/diseases/salmonella_enteritidis/
    Campylobacter jejuni was described in the 1880’s and isolated in 1973, do not know how long it has been around. See article entitled “Campylobacter jejuni—An Emerging Foodborne Pathogen”
    in Emerging Infectious Diseases at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/eid/vol5no1/altekruse.htm
    As for causes, I can tell you prevention measures (proper time and temperature for storage and cooking, good personal hygiene, preventing cross contamination, ensuring safe suppliers, etc.) which have not changed. Safe practices are safe practices. I can’t tell definitively why salmonella enteritidis rates have risen and spread across the country since the 1980’s. Prior to that the main concern was feces on the egg surface, now (and then, possibly to a lesser extent) it is inside some intact eggs. Based on rates, something has changed in the case of salmonella enteritidis. I’ve always questioned those who say antibiotics, steroids, etc. are killing us all, however, something appears to have changed whether man influenced or natural disease adaptation.
    If salmonella enteritidis was not inside eggs, or was to a much lesser degree, prior to the 1980’s how do we reverse that now. Whatever the cause, when things changed we have to deal with the change.