Five people have been sickened with Yersinia enterocolitica after drinking pasteurized milk in glass bottles from the same dairy, according to the Pennsylvania departments of Health and Agriculture and the Allegheny County Health Department.
In a news release, the public health officials said that from June 15 through July 17, three children and two adults in Beaver and Allegheny counties developed diarrhea and other symptoms determined to be caused by the bacteria Yersinia enterocolitica. All five had consumed glass-bottled, pasteurized milk from the Brunton Dairy in Aliquippa, Beaver County.
Other members of the same households experienced similar gastrointestinal symptoms, but the cause of their illness was not confirmed.
The health officials said the dairy is cooperating with the investigation and agreed to stop producing milk using its on-site pasteurization facility.
“Until we can complete our investigation, we are recommending, in the interest of public health, that any glass-bottled milk from the dairy at homes or businesses be discarded or returned to the dairy, and that residents take precaution with other dairy products from Brunton Dairy,” said Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Eli Avila in the prepared statement.
The warning does not extend to other types of food purchased from or distributed by the farm, including its cheese, which is made elsewhere, the health and ag departments added.
Brunton Dairy is certified by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to pasteurize milk at the farm. The dairy produces buttermilk, regular, fat-free, reduced-fat, cream, and chocolate- and strawberry-flavored milk, as well as ice cream. The dairy sells its products on the farm, makes home delivery to households in Western Pennsylvania, and also sells milk and ice cream at retail establishments and for use by restaurants.The shelf life of the pasteurized milk is at least 15 days and much longer for ice cream.
Yersinia enterocolitica bacteria causes diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting and can sometimes enter the bloodstream and affect other organs. Onset of illness usually occurs four to six days after exposure, but can be as short as one day or as long as two weeks. The bacteria can cause severe infections and the illness can mimic appendicitis and sometimes leads to unnecessary surgery.
Yersinia is a rarely reported cause of foodborne illness in Pennsylvania, with an average of 22 cases annually statewide and an average of six cases annually in the southwestern region of the state, including Allegheny County. Many hospital laboratories do not routinely look for Yersinia in stool specimens; therefore, Yersinia infections may be missed unless proper laboratory technique is used, the health advisory explained.
The state health department advises any one who consumed a product from Brunton Dairy and has symptoms of diarrhea to contact their health care provider to assure appropriate specimens are collected and treatment is administered; Yersinia infections can be treated with antibiotics.
Ill individuals, health care providers, or laboratories can contact the Pennsylvania Department of Health at 1-877-PA-HEALTH (1-877-724-3258) or the Allegheny County Health Department at 412-687-ACHD (2243).