Producer proclamations and consumer testimonials to the contrary, the new evidence is about the risk of raw milk with the latest discovery being Listeria infections — one of them fatal — now linked to raw milk from Miller’s Organic Farm in Pennsylvania.
Federal officials announced today that two people, one in California who recovered and one in Florida who died, were sickened in 2014 by Listeria bacteria “closely related genetically” to a strain isolated in samples of Miller’s Organic raw chocolate milk collected in November 2015 in California.
“Collaborative investigative efforts of state, local, and federal public health and regulatory officials indicate that raw milk produced by Miller’s Organic Farm in Bird-In-Hand, PA, is the likely source of this outbreak,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The raw milk samples, collected at the annual International Raw Milk Symposium in Anaheim, CA, by the Food and Drug Administration in November 2015, were linked this January via DNA matching to the two people who were sickened in 2014, according to the CDC outbreak announcement.
“Because Listeria was recently found in raw milk produced by Miller’s Organic Farm, we are concerned that contaminated raw milk and other raw dairy products from this company could still be on the market and make people sick. This investigation is ongoing,” the CDC reported.
Organizers of the symposium did not immediately respond to requests for comment today.
Miller’s Organic Farm is an Amish operation in Bird-in-Hand, PA, and is identified on its website as “a private membership organization.” It’s March price list shows its organic raw chocolate milk at $12 per gallon. No one from Miller’s Organic Farm responded to telephone calls this afternoon requesting comment.
Forensic lab work pays off
The link between the raw milk and the illnesses was discovered when the Listeria from samples collected by FDA at the symposium matched up with the DNA fingerprint of the Listeria bacteria isolated from the California and Florida patients. The match is an illustration of the ability of the CDC’s PulseNet database to identify far-flung outbreak victims and potential outbreak causes from distant sources.
“Once the two illnesses were identified in late January, public health officials worked over several weeks to interview them or their family members about the foods they may have eaten and other exposures in the month before their illness started,” the CDC reported.
“Interviews were conducted with the ill person from California and family members for both ill people. It was reported that both ill people drank raw milk before they got sick. The family of the deceased person in Florida reported purchasing raw milk from Miller’s Organic Farm.”
Local and state public health officials across the country are working with the CDC and PulseNet to identify any additional people who have been infected with the same Listeria isolates.
The sale of raw milk is prohibited across state lines. Some states allow in-state sales through herd-share programs where only people who buy a stake in a dairy herd or cow are allowed to buy the raw milk, which is not allowed to be sold at retail. A few states allow retail sales, despite warnings from health officials and scientists.
“Raw milk is milk from cows or other animals that has not been pasteurized to kill harmful bacteria. This raw, unpasteurized milk can carry dangerous bacteria such as Listeria, Salmonella, E. coli, and Campylobacter, which are responsible for causing numerous foodborne illnesses and outbreaks,” according to the CDC.
“We recommend that people drink and eat only pasteurized dairy products. Learn more about the dangers of drinking raw milk at the CDC Food Safety and Raw Milk website.”
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