The Kentucky Department for Public Health has not been able to identify the source of the E. coli outbreak that sickened five children in early September, despite the work of raw milk journalist David Gumpert to bring the link between the children’s illnesses and raw milk to the public’s attention.
However, on Tuesday the department put out a warning to residents about the danger of consuming unpasteurized milk and other food products sometimes associated with E. coli.
All five children sickened in the outbreak reportedly drank raw milk from the same dairy and fell ill within a brief window of time. Four were hospitalized and developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a kidney disease associated with severe E. coli infections.
Testing of animals and milk samples from the dairy, performed sometime after the children fell ill, came back negative for any E. coli.
In the health department’s statement, Kentucky Health Commissioner Dr. Stephanie Mayfield singled out raw milk as a risky food for children to consume.
“Unpasteurized milk is dangerous and has not undergone a process to kill bacteria before it is consumed, meaning it could contain disease-causing agents such as E. coli,” she said. “The health of anyone who drinks unpasteurized milk can be affected if they are exposed to E. coli or other bacteria that can cause very serious illness, but the risk is even greater for children.”
Mayfield went on to outline the risks associated with raw milk:
“Raw milk, no matter how carefully it is produced, may contain pathogens,” she said. “Just as we recommend that you don’t eat raw hamburger, pork or fish, we also advise that consumers don’t drink raw, unpasteurized milk.”
The health department statement also reiterated that laboratory testing has not found contamination in samples from the dairy. However, the agency said that confirming a direct link to any food source can be difficult.
“DPH is stressing the dangers of unpasteurized milk after learning all the affected children had consumed it and because it is a known source of E. coli bacteria, as well as numerous other pathogens that can lead to illness,” the statement said.© Food Safety News