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New Jersey orders Udder Milk to stop illegally selling raw milk

Rare, antibiotic-resistant Brucella bacteria confirmed in raw milk drinkers in New Jersey, Texas

Public health officials have ordered a New Jersey company to cease and desist its illegal sales of unpasteurized, raw milk following confirmation that a woman who drank it was infected with antibiotic-resistant brucellosis.

The New Jersey Department of Health issued cease-and-desist orders to Udder Milk on Friday, but did not post the news on is website until Monday. Neither the state health department nor the Udder Milk website indicated where the delivery business is located. No business entities named Udder Milk are listed with the New Jersey or New York secretaries of state offices.

“It is illegal in New Jersey to sell or distribute raw milk or products made from raw milk, such as yogurt, soft cheese and ice cream,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Tina Tan said in the New Jersey notice.

Federal law prohibits the sale of raw dairy products across state lines. Most states ban the sale of unpasteurized, raw milk and products made from it because of the associated danger of contamination with bacteria, viruses and parasites. New Jersey’s health department is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to find out where Udder Milk is getting the raw milk it is selling.

As of 1 a.m. EST today, the Udder Milk website was still marketing raw milk from cows, goats, sheep and camels. Prices range from $10 per gallon for cow’s milk to $13 per pint for camel milk. Goat’s milk sells for $13 per gallon, according to the company’s website. As of today, sheep milk was listed as unavailable.

The Udder Milk website shows delivery locations in several states, including Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island. The company has been selling raw milk since 2005, according to its website. The contact page on the Udder Milk site indicates the owner is out of the country.

“People should know that, in general, unpasteurized milk may contain dangerous bacteria and those who have become ill after consuming raw milk products should immediately consult a medical professional,” epidemiologist Tan said.

From 1993 through 2012, there were 127 outbreaks linked to raw milk that were reported to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, resulting in 1,909 illnesses and 144 hospitalizations, according to the Monday notice from the New Jersey health department.

New Jersey action follows temporary closure of Texas raw milk dairy
New Jersey’s action Friday to stop Udder Milk’s sales of unpasteurized dairy products is the result of an Oct. 23 notification that a state resident tested positive for Brucella RB51 infection. The New Jersey woman is at least the second person in the United States confirmed with an infection from the rare, antibiotic-resistant strain of Brucella in recent weeks.

As of mid-October, the CDC and the Texas State Department of Health Services had received reports from at least seven states, not counting New Jersey, about people who drank raw milk from the Texas dairy. Some people who drank K-Bar milk developed symptoms consistent with brucellosis caused by Brucella RB51 and others who were exposed are at risk of becoming infected.

States reporting illnesses with symptoms consistent with brucellosis are Alabama, Arkansas, California, Ohio, North Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.

K-Bar was stopped temporarily from selling its raw milk, but Texas officials cleared it to resume operations Oct. 11.

“Milk samples from the dairy tested positive for a Brucella strain called RB51,” according to a CDC health advisory posted Sept. 14, which reported thousands of people are at risk.

“Brucella strain RB51 is resistant to rifampin and penicillin. A combination of doxycycline and trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole for 21 days is the recommended first-line PEP regimen for RB51 exposure.”

A month before the CDC advisory, Texas officials warned the public against drinking raw milk from K-Bar Dairy. They also urged anyone who consumed raw milk from K-Bar and developed symptoms consistent with brucellosis to immediately seek medical attention and tell their doctors about their possible exposure to the bacteria.

Also, people who consumed raw dairy products from K-Bar Dairy or Udder Milk and did not quickly become ill should monitor themselves — and their children if they served them the unpasteurized milk — for six months because it can take that long for symptoms to develop, the CDC warns.

Advice to consumers and health care workers
Brucellosis symptoms are widely varied from patient to patient and are often non-specific, according to public health officials. Symptoms can also wax and wane over weeks or months, making it difficult for doctors to recognize the infection.

Symptoms can include fever, sweats, chills, weight loss, headache, fatigue and muscle and joint pain. Symptoms may appear up to six months after exposure. In severe cases, infections of the central nervous system or lining of the heart may occur.

Specific blood testing is required to diagnose the infection.

The RB51 strain of Brucella is dangerous for medical staff and lab personnel in addition to patients, particularly because of its resistance to some antibiotics, the CDC warns.

“When ordering blood cultures to diagnose brucellosis, please advise the laboratory that the blood culture may grow Brucella and that appropriate laboratory precautions should be observed,” the CDC recommended to doctors and other health care providers.

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