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UK’s raw milk vending machine outbreak expands; 56 sick

Editor’s note: For details on efforts in New Jersey and Texas to allow in-state sales of unpasteurized raw milk, the interstate sale of which is prohibited by federal law, please see “Raw milk advocates make the most of anti-reg mood in U.S.” 

One carry-over from 2016 in United Kingdom is Campylobacter, remaining in 2017 as the most common cause of food poisoning in the U.K. It’s responsible for more than 280,000 cases of food poisoning each year with more 72,000 confirmed cases with a high proportion attributable to food sources.

And the U.K. has also carried at least one rapidly expanding Campylobacter outbreak into the new year.

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Raw milk vending machines can be found in Europe and the United Kingdom, but are not legal in the United States.

An outbreak originally reported in mid-December with about six confirmed Campylobacter cases has now reached at least 56 cases. The South Lakeland District Council is investigating and has linked the illnesses to a Kendal farm’s raw milk sales from a vending machine.

South Lakeland is a local government district in Cumbria, England. The population of the non-metropolitan district at the 2011 Census was 103,658. Its council is based in Kendal.

The Low Sizergh Barn Farm and its raw milk vending machine are the targets of the investigation. The vending machine under suspicion has been shut down while testing and further investigation continues.

The South Lakeland District Council reports the owner of the Low Sizergh Barn Farm is cooperating in the investigation and has voluntarily suspended all raw milk sales.

Campylobacter bacteria are usually found on raw or undercooked meat — particularly poultry — unpasteurized raw milk and untreated water.

The incubation period between exposure and the onset of symptoms for food poisoning caused by Campylobacter is usually between two and five days, but can be up to 10 days.

Symptoms usually last less than a week. Campylobacter poisoning typically involves  abdominal pain, severe diarrhea and, occasionally, vomiting.

Although not usually serious in healthy adults, it can be more serious in young children or someone vulnerable to the effects of dehydration, such as the elderly and others with compromised immune systems.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has been brought in to lead the ongoing investigation at the farm. The agency is  working to ensure measures are in place to prevent the public from consuming unsafe products.

“ Unpasteurized milk was removed from sale at the premises as soon as the campylobacter results were confirmed,” an FSA spokesman reported.

“Long-standing FSA advice has been that vulnerable people — that’s older people, infants, children, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems — are particularly vulnerable to food poisoning and that is why these groups should not be consuming raw milk because it has not been heat treated.”

FSA also advises that anyone who may have consumed raw milk from Low Sizergh Barn and thinks they may have campylobacter food poisoning should contact a health professional and tell them about the possible exposure to the pathogen.

Anyone who has  recently purchased raw milk from the site is warned not to drink it.

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