The Pennsylvania Department of Health on Tuesday added another six cases to the ongoing Campylobacter outbreak linked to raw milk from Your Family Cow dairy in Chambersburg, PA, bringing the number of confirmed infections to 71. At least 9 individuals have been hospitalized.
The current age range of those sickened is from 2 to 74 years old, with 24 of the victims (34 percent) under the age of 18.
The latest breakdown of cases by state is as follows: Pennsylvania (62 illnesses), Maryland (4), West Virginia (3), New Jersey (2).
After making improvements to equipment and passing a health inspection, the dairy was cleared to resume production early last week.
The sale of unpasteurized milk is legal in Pennsylvania. Since 2007, the state has had at least seven disease outbreaks linked to raw milk, resulting in 278 confirmed illnesses:
2007 – Salmonella (29 illnesses)
2007 – Campylobacter (7)
2008 – Campylobacter (72)
2008 – Campylobacter (68)
2009 – Campylobacter (9)
2010 – Campylobacter (22)
2012 – Campylobacter (71 thus far)
In that time, the state’s department of health has tracked an additional 9 clusters of 5 or fewer illnesses that have been linked to raw milk.
In a Feb. 3 statement to customers on Your Family Cow’s website, dairy owner Edwin Shank took responsibility for the outbreak, saying, “You trusted us to never do this. But… it was us. Food from our farm has made people sick.”
In light of the ongoing outbreak, food safety attorney and Food Safety News publisher Bill Marler issued a news release calling for warning labels to be placed on raw milk that would inform consumers of its potential to carry harmful bacteria. Marler’s suggested label warns that pregnant women, infants, children, the elderly and immunocompromised individuals are at a higher risk for harm when drinking unpasteurized milk.
“Unlike many others that have been in this position, Your Family Cow has owned its mistakes and is clearly trying to create a safer product,” Marler said. “That said, when it comes down to it, dairies like this are profiting from selling a raw animal product which inherently carries an increased risk of foodborne illness.”
Most people who become ill with campylobacteriosis get diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain and fever that typically lasts one week. Some infected persons do not have any symptoms. A few can develop serious complications, which include paralysis.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health plans to update its outbreak information as new cases of infection are confirmed.