The Washington State Department of Health announced yesterday that two Washington residents who recently became ill with E. coli O157:H7 infections reported drinking raw milk purchased from Jackie’s Jersey Milk in Whatcom County.  

These latest cases make a total of 8 E. coli O157:H7 infections that have now been associated with the consumption of raw milk purchased from the Bellingham dairy this year.

Jackie’s Jersey Milk recalled raw milk products in February after the Department of Agriculture discovered E. coli in a routine sample of the dairy’s milk.  Shortly thereafter, the Department of Health learned of six patients with E. coli infections who had consumed Jackie’s Jersey Milk products purchased at retail stores in King, Snohomish, and Skagit counties.

In April, Whole Foods and PCC Natural Markets discontinued the sale of raw milk products.  “We made this decision because raw milk is a higher risk food, especially for children, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems,” says the PCC Website.

The Website also says that although Washington state still allows the retail sale of raw milk, PCC has concerns about “the reliability of being able to ensure, on an ongoing basis, the safety of raw milk.”

Just last week, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed raw milk legislation that would have allowed dairy farmers to sell raw milk directly to consumers.  He explained his decision to veto the legislation in a press release:  “I cannot ignore the potential harmful health effects of consuming unpasteurized milk that have been raised by many groups.”

Raw milk isn’t heated to kill harmful bacteria, making it riskier than pasteurized milk, but some raw milk advocates believe the unpasteurized dairy product can cure health problems like lactose intolerance, asthma, cancer, and autism.

This month alone, consumption of raw milk has been identified as the source of an E. coli outbreak in Minnesota and Salmonella and Campylobacter outbreaks in Utah.

The Washington State Department of Health offers the following advice to consumers:  “Consumers who buy raw milk should read the container’s warning label carefully, and should verify the milk was produced and processed by a Washington State Department of Agriculture-licensed operation. Consumers should be aware that while licensure to sell raw milk represents a basic level of sanitation, it doesn’t assure that raw milk is free of illness-producing bacteria.”

The Washington State Department of Agriculture has conducted additional

testing on raw milk produced at Jackie’s Jersey Milk, but has not been

able to isolate E. coli from the products sampled.  According to the

press release issued by the Department of Health, “[The Department of

Agriculture] continues to work with the farm to review the dairy’s

production and product handling practices.”

For more information on raw milk, see