This past January, Kansas experienced its third outbreak of disease associated with consumption of raw milk since 2007.  

Chelsea Good, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Agriculture, says because the 18 people who became ill in January with Campylobacter infection were “quickly and easily identifiable,” no public announcement was made at the time. Those sickened got raw milk from a dairy in south central Kansas.

Now Kansas is warning both consumers and producers about the risks associated with consuming unpasteurized milk or raw milk. The Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Environment jointly issued the warning.

Since the January raw milk outbreak in Kansas, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a study showing that when weighted for consumption rates, raw milk and products made from it are 150 times more likely to cause illnesses than pasteurized milk.

Kansas officials opted to issue their own warning, in part to make it clear that retail sales of raw milk are illegal in the state. Only individual sales of raw milk on the farm are permitted, the only promotion can be farm signs and raw milk containers must be labeled.

“While dairy producers can legally sell raw milk on farms directly to consumers, the practice is not recommended,” the warning notice states.

In 2007, Kansas experienced two outbreaks associated with raw milk. One involved cheese made with raw milk that sickened 68 with campylobacteriosis. The second was milk from a single dairy that infected 25 with Campylobacter.

“Consuming raw milk is an unnecessary risk,” wrote George Blush, Kansas’s dairy inspection program manager.  “You cannot tell if milk is safe just by looking at, smelling, or tasting it.  Even milk from the cleanest dairies can poise risk without the pasteurization safeguard.

Pasteurization is the process of heating milk to kill illness-causing bacteria, typically fecal bacteria.