Header graphic for print

Food Safety News

Breaking news for everyone's consumption

Outbreak Linked to Raw Milk from South Carolina

Health officials are warning people not to drink unpasteurized milk from Tucker Adkins Dairy of York, South Carolina, because as many as eight cases of Campylobacter infection in neighboring North Carolina have been linked to the farm’s raw milk.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Saturday that the outbreak includes three confirmed cases and five probable cases of campylobacteriosis, a diarrheal illness caused by ingesting fecal bacteria.

The eight North Carolina residents sickened are from three different households. All said they drank raw milk delivered from Tucker Adkins Dairy on June 14, and the onset of their illnesses was in “mid June,” according to the FDA.  One person was admitted to the hospital with severe symptoms.

Dairy owner Carolyn Adkins told the Associated Press that South Carolina health officials have not detected the bacteria in milk samples. A spokesman for the state health department said lab test results are still pending.  It’s not clear from press reports when the milk samples were collected or if there was any milk available from the implicated June 14 batch to test.

Although the retail sale of raw milk is legal within South Carolina, it is prohibited in North Carolina, where unpasteurized milk is sometimes distributed through informal “milk clubs.”  Under federal law, milk sold across states lines must first be pasteurized to protect the public health. There is no law against drinking raw milk.

The North Carolina customers who became ill told public health investigators they were getting raw milk deliveries twice a month via a courier from South Carolina; the FDA said the raw milk could have been distributed in other states as well. “While it is believed the full distribution of this courier is limited, this information is not fully understood at this time,” the FDA said in a news release. The agency said the milk was being transported in one-gallon containers.

The North Carolina Division of Public Health and the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, together with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control and the FDA, are working to investigate the outbreak and “to take appropriate action to address any product that may be remaining on the market,” the FDA said in its warning statement.

Advocates extol raw milk as natural, and fecal and other microorganisms are a natural part of dairy milk. The FDA says the claim that fresh milk is antimicrobial is false: “raw milk does not contain compounds that will kill harmful bacteria.”

Raw milk has long been and continues to be a common vehicle for Campylobacter as well as Salmonella, E. coli and other pathogens. Healthy cows, goats and other animals, grass-fed or grain-fed, from small farms or large-scale operations, shed germs in their feces, and excrement can contaminate milk, usually during milking. Pasteurization — heating milk briefly, to 161 degrees for about 20 seconds — is an effective way to eliminate harmful bacteria, and public health experts stress that pasteurization does not make milk less nutritious. 

Campylobacter causes two to five days of abdominal cramps, pain, fever, vomiting and diarrhea. Most people recover after about 10 days, although there can be long-term effects such as arthritis.  About one out of every 1,000 reported Campylobacter cases leads to Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), a serious complication that can include paralysis. An estimated 40 percent of GBS cases in the U.S. are triggered by campylobacteriosis.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that from 1998 to 2008 it recorded 85 outbreaks of disease with a total of 1,614 reported illnesses, 187 hospitalizations and two deaths related to raw milk. The actual number of illnesses is likely much higher, because not all cases of foodborne illness are lab-confirmed and reported.

© Food Safety News
  • Doc Mudd

    Well, this little outbreak pretty much backfills the grave of an audacious bluff by a NC ‘local food’ advocate claiming SC’s raw milk is magically pure and safe, hinting that no harm could ever result…
    Regardless of any slippery snakeoil salesman’s pitch, there ain’t nothin’ new in a raw milk food poisoning outbreak in the Carolinas:
    When will delusional ‘raw milkies’ wise up and acknowledge the risks they are advocating with their preposterous unscientific beliefs? Their para-normal spin on fundamental food safety issues is an egregious insult to the intelligence of rational thinking consumers…to say nothing of the dangerous assault on the health and safety of kids and old folks.
    Here’s factual information, compiled in one convenient location:
    May I suggest a new battle cry for ‘raw milkies’…
    “Raw milk – just in case you don’t already have enough stupid risky ideas.”

  • Vince Romano

    The real threat that raw milk creates is that is is the base for a very sustainable form of localized economic revival. And the fact that no major cooperation, Wall street criminal or government √ú/¬ß”&$ sucker can make money off of it. If the FDA was really in the business of helping to keep people safe we would not have companies like Monsanto making a global attempt to endanger our food systems, pollute our soil, water, air and sicken our planet… Fact of the matter is that the FDA is THE MOST CORRUPT organization on the planet and its opinion can no be trusted anymore then that of any other government official. If America is to be truly safe is must put and end to the FDA!

  • Lynnery

    I’m sorry that some people got sick, though I strongly suspect the milk became contaminated AFTER it left the dairy. I just hope officials don’t decide to go after the courier– who is NOT doing anything wrong but simply meeting a need that is created by NC’s laws which limit personal choice. It is ridiculous that NC residents who want natural milk have to cross the border to get it.

  • Vince Romano, civic 101, FDA doesn’t enforce any regulation that congress hasn’t written and passed a law to create. As noted on food safety news congress controls the regulatory agencies through passage of laws for example moving catfish from fda to usda. Congress can defunding programs or passing constitutional amendments like prohibition. So if you don’t like a regulation write congress.
    As to corruption, you are full of bull. Federal employees who work for regulatory agencies have to complete annual ethics training and provide personal information that they do not have conflicting interests for themselves and family. Failure to do so will result in being fired and possible jailed. This is what happened former fda commissioner when he failed to report his wife’s stock holdings.
    Again, this is different from congress who can have many conflicts of interests including accepting rides on corporate planes. Not recongizing this ethics issue caused second. Espy to resign after he accepted travel from tyson’s president when he was sect of agriculture. Therefore stop confusing the corruption of congress and fda. If you have got to know most fda employee, you would find them hard working and trying to do their jobs to the best of their ability. You may not agree with laws but they don’t make them and they can’t choose which ones to enforce.

  • Jackie Schmidts

    Doc Mudd has said it all and best. Raw milk is dangerous. As for Lynnery’s comment ” though I strongly suspect the milk became contaminated AFTER it left the dairy.” is just plain stupid. How do differnt households get sick if it happened after it left the farm? There is only one source and it is the farm. Raw milk sales to the general public should be outlawed. The courrier should be arrested for transporting a dangerous food product. If you want to drink raw milk, go buy a cow, goat or camel and milk it yourself.

  • Do you believe everything you read?

    Have you guys read anything that actually contains any facts?
    Do you realize how many MORE people get sick from drinking so called “pasteurized” milk? If not…Take some time and read this:
    And how about this from one of the doctors who founded the Mayo Clinic:
    Do you seriously believe everything the government and your doctor tells you? Do you think it’s a coincidence that the health of the average American is so poor these days? Too many people listening to what the government and their doctor says is good for them!
    Drinking raw milk has risks. Drinking pasteurized milk has risks. Riding in your car has risks. Eating a chicken sandwich from Chic-Fila has risks. Dating has risks. The only one that anyone questions is the raw milk. It sounds so foreign to you and you’re afraid of it. What about all the people, including myself, whose health has IMPROVED since drinking raw milk?

  • Tammy

    How many people get sick every year from tainted beef, fish and chicken? I think we should outlaw all meats. And while we’re at it, how many people die every year form alcohol and alcohol related injuries? We should go ahead ban that too. And hey, lets ban cigarettes, and peanuts, and all raw vegetables so we don’t get sick from those “dangerous” foods either…who’s with me?? Yeah I didn’t think so.