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Raw Milk Threat Continues in Alaska

At least 18 people have now been sickened in an outbreak of Campylobacter infection associated with raw milk from a cow-share farm in Alaska’s Matanuska-Susitna (Mat-Su) Valley, according to an updated epidemiology bulletin from the state Department of Health and Social Services.

The Alaskan outbreak, first reported in late June, is ongoing and remains a threat to consumers, the June 28 update states.

Four people were initially reported to be sick with campylobacteriosis; the 18 now affected include seven lab-confirmed cases and 11 suspected cases.

Laboratory results combined with the epidemiological finding that raw milk consumption from the same dairy (identified as “Farm A”) is the only exposure common to all the cases “confirms the conclusion that this outbreak is due to consumption of Farm A raw dairy products,” the bulletin states.

Campylobacter jejuni bacteria isolated in manure samples from the grazing field and in the calf barn matched the bacteria isolated from the seven laboratory-confirmed patients, as identified by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), the health department said.

Milk samples from the bulk tank, collected on June 22 and 27, tested negative for Campylobacter but positive for Listeria monocytogenes, the bulletin reported. None of the raw milk actually consumed by the ill persons was available for testing.

“It is not surprising that C. jejuni was not detected in Farm A bulk tank samples because C. jejuni is notoriously difficult to culture from environmental specimens other than raw stool, and few campylobacteriosis outbreak investigations yield laboratory confirmation of an implicated food source such as raw milk or produce,” the Alaska public health officials wrote.

“Contamination might have resulted from introduction of manure into the milk or cream at some point in time from milking to filling the containers, or a cow (or cows) with an infected udder may be intermittently shedding Campylobacter directly into the milk,” the bulletin added. “Regardless of the exact mechanism of contamination, with confirmed cases reporting consumption of dairy products over an 8-week period from May to July, this outbreak poses an ongoing threat to Farm A raw dairy product consumers.”

Alaska state law does not permit the sale of unpasteurized milk, but does allow owning shares of an animal to obtain raw milk — which does not have to be tested before it is distributed, an Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) spokesman said in an earlier news release.  

© Food Safety News
  • Mystic

    So pretty much what this article is saying is just because people got sick, the health department automatically concludes it’s the raw milk without any actual definite proof. Way to go again you health department losers.

  • Anne

    Mystic: the proof is clearly stated in the article:
    “Laboratory results combined with the epidemiological finding that raw milk consumption from the same dairy (identified as “Farm A”) is the only exposure common to all the cases “confirms the conclusion that this outbreak is due to consumption of Farm A raw dairy products,” the bulletin states.”

  • Mystic try brushing up on reading comprehension and how about maybe reading up a little bit on Epidemiology before you spout off about something you obviously know nothing about.
    I cannot speak for Alaska but I will guarantee you that I have never met a health department official that automatically concludes anything. I know I don’t. Have you ever done an illness outbreak investigation? I doubt it. But you know what I will not draw a conclusion about you since I don’t have all the facts, I’ll just leave it that you do not have all the information needed to arrive at an informed opinion.

  • Margie

    Funny thing is, this same Farm A sells their milk to the local milk producer who sells milk, cheese and ice cream. Since they have to test each and every tank that comes in from each farm, why haven’t they found the listeria and other bad things in the past? Seems that they are now selling “contaminated” goods. There is a history with Farm A farmer and CDC and DEC up here. Makes one wonder. They seem to be out to shut down the shares program in all of Alaska. Want to make it illegal so they are blaming raw milk for everything they can. It is really getting out of hand for sure.

  • Greg

    Funny thing is Margie, raw milk is screened for antibiotics and somatic cell counts before commingling but not necessarily for pathogens. Those are destroyed during the pasteurization process, and is why they aren’t found in Farm A’s pasteurized milk products. But thanks for your unintended endorsement. I guess the trade off is that the pasteurized milk is not “delicious” and doesn’t have the imagined “health benefits” of raw milk nor are its consumers rife with conspiracy theories.

  • Emily

    I’m curious as to what the story from the dairy is. I’m sure we all remember the 2006 Spinach e-coli outbreak which made 276 people sick & in which 3 people died…. A very sad event. However, I think we’d all agree this doesn’t mean all spinach is evil. It means that grower had a breakdown in proper procedures. They didn’t follow clean handling practices, and caused an outbreak. I suspect that is what has happened here.

  • Michael

    FUNNY THING IS GREGG you are absolutely ignorant to any of the facts concerning raw milk. Perhaps you should not be commenting on things you know nothing about. Raw milk is real milk that is not processed. Processing kills everything. You might as well drink a Pepsi. Everyone is so scared of bacteria. We have more bacteria in and on our bodies than we have cells. Real milk has enzymes that kill of harmful bacteria when introduced. The University of California at Davis for years has been introducing e-coli and other harmful bacteria to raw milk and it disappears. When you cook the enzymes they can not protect the milk. If raw milk was dangerous there would not be any dairymen like myself left to milk cows because we all drink real milk from our bulk tanks.
    And yes the health department always accuses raw milk of outbreaks.
    This is all a conspiracy to close down all small farms so Monsanto can really have the opportunity to poison us once and for all.

  • Greg

    Well Michael, I am a food microbiologist with over 30 years experience in developing and improving food pathogen detection kits. I work with raw milk on a daily basis. I also worked on a dairy farm as a teen and during my college years. So due to my ignorance please tell me what these enzymes are and how the harmful bacteria “disappear”. Also, how do the enzymes know not to destroy the “good” bacteria? I never claimed that raw milk was dangerous. It’s the contamination of the raw milk once it leaves the teat that makes it potentially dangerous to gullible consumers. Your perfect food is also a perfect medium for pathogens.

  • Terriann

    I notice that the last statement of the article is: “Alaska state law does allow owning shares of an animal to obtain raw milk — which does not have to be tested before it is distributed”.
    I have had a cow share for over a year now. Our dairyman has his milk scrupulously tested, in the same way that pasteurized milk requires testing. We probably pay more for our cow share, because of this, but I’m happy to pay it. It gives me confidence in my product. During the time we were all concerned about the nuclear fallout from Japan, in the Spring, he had his milk and land tested frequently and posted the results so we could decide for ourselves when and if to consume our milk. (He scrapped up his pasture and fed the cows alfalfa until the ground tested clean again). I don’t know if it’s required by California State law that he do this testing. I wouldn’t own a cow-share with a dairyman who wasn’t keeping such high standards on his farm.