The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), along with several state agencies, issued an alert yesterday warning the public about an outbreak of campylobacteriosis associated with drinking unpasteurized milk. At least 12 confirmed illnesses have been reported in Michigan.
According to the FDA, federal public health officials are collaborating with the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH), the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Indiana State Board of Animal Health, and the Indiana State Health Department, to investigate the outbreak. As of Wednesday, MDCH had received reports of 12 confirmed cases of illness from Campylobacter infections in consumers who drank raw milk.
The raw milk linked to the outbreak originated from Forest Grove Dairy in Middlebury, Indiana.
Raw milk may contain a wide variety of harmful bacteria, including Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, Listeria, Campylobacter and Brucella, that may cause illness and possibly death.
As FDA noted in its alert, most healthy individuals recover quickly from illness caused by raw milk, but some people may have more severe illness.
“The bacteria in raw milk can be especially dangerous for pregnant women, the elderly, infants, young children, and people with weakened immune systems,” said FDA in the release yesterday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the FDA, and a wide variety of public health organizations have warned against drinking raw milk for decades. Since 1987, the FDA has required all milk packaged for human consumption to be pasteurized before being delivered for introduction into interstate commerce.
From 1998 to 2008, 85 outbreaks of human infections resulting from consumption of raw milk were reported to CDC. These outbreaks included a total of 1,614 reported illnesses, 187 hospitalizations and 2 deaths–and the FDA suspects the actual number could be much higher, as foodborne illness is typically under-reported.
“Proponents of drinking raw milk often claim that raw milk is more nutritious than pasteurized milk and that raw milk is inherently antimicrobial, thus making pasteurization unnecessary,” said FDA. “There is no meaningful nutritional difference between pasteurized and raw milk, and raw milk does not contain compounds that will kill harmful bacteria.”
According to FDA, Symptoms of illness caused by various bacteria commonly found in raw milk may include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, headache and body ache. The agency advises anyone who is experiencing these symptoms after consuming raw milk to seek medical attention. In rare cases, campylobacteriosis can lead to Guillain-Barre syndrome, a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks the peripheral nervous syndrome.
For information, visit www.foodsafety.gov and the FDA’s Q&A page dedicated to raw milk issues.
Recent Food Safety News coverage of raw milk:
WI Legislature Considers Easing Raw Milk Regs, March 24, 2010
Food Safety for Pregnant Women, March 23, 2010
Whole Foods Pulls Raw Milk in 4 States, March 14, 2010
Libertarian Farmers Lobby Against S. 510, March 13, 2010