Pennsylvania officials warned consumers earlier this month that they should immediately discard all raw milk from Conoco View Dairy because it was contaminated with Campylobacter, which can cause serious infections and is killed by pasteurization.
As of Monday, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, which issued the warning Feb. 15, had not received any reports of confirmed Campylobacter infections in connection with the unpasteurized, raw milk from the Perry County dairy, said a department spokeswoman.
All of the implicated milk was labeled with a sell-by date of Feb. 16.
While it is unlikely people still have any of the unpasteurized milk in their homes, consumers should monitor themselves and children who drank the milk for symptoms of Campylobacter infection. It can take several days after exposure for symptoms to develop.
Symptoms usually include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. The diarrhea is often bloody and may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Campylobacter infections are particularly dangerous for children, especially if they are younger than 5 years, according to the CDC and the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
“In the years 2007 to 2011, 15 raw milk-related outbreaks were reported in Pennsylvania; 233 persons were confirmed with illness as a result of these outbreaks and 11 were hospitalized,” according to a report from the state health department.
“During this time, only one outbreak associated with pasteurized milk was reported; 16 persons with confirmed illness were identified.”
In the referenced raw milk outbreaks, 45 percent of the victims were less than 18 years old; 17 percent were younger 5, according to the Pennsylvania report.
“This is very important because children rely on adults for their food choices,” according to the state health department’s 2012 report.
2012’s Campylobacter outbreak
Following the string of outbreaks from 2007-2011, a four-state outbreak of Campylobacter infections was traced to a Pennsylvania raw milk dairy in 2012 — even though the interstate sale of raw milk is prohibited by federal law.
The state’s health department recorded 81 culture-confirmed victims, “plus many more ‘probable’ cases in persons whose illness was not confirmed by culture,” according to the department. “This was the largest raw milk outbreak in Pennsylvania in recent history.”
Less than half of the states allow sales of raw milk, with state statutes limiting sales only to herd-share owners. Pennsylvania is one of the few states that allow the retail sale of unpasteurized milk. However, the state health department’s website warns about the dangers of consuming raw milk, describing various bacteria and viruses often found in it.
States lawmakers expressed similar concern by requiring warning labels on raw milk sold in the state. Pennsylvania’s raw milk statute suggests the following warning label language:
“Raw milk has not been processed to remove pathogens that can cause illness. The consumption of raw milk may significantly increase the risk of foodborne illness in persons who consume it — particularly with respect to certain highly-susceptible populations such as preschool-age children, older adults, pregnant women, persons experiencing illness, and other people with weakened immune systems.”
The state health department’s raw milk report after the 2012 outbreak acknowledges that some people believe unpasteurized milk and products made with it have health benefits. But the Pennsylvania public health officials cautioned that there is not peer-reviewed, scientific research to support those claims.
“… the claims that raw milk helps improve certain illnesses and conditions are anecdotal and have not been borne out by scientific studies,” according to Pennsylvania’s report.
“The FDA provides an extensive rebuttal to the claims that raw milk is healthier, can be used to treat or prevent conditions, and various other claims made by raw milk proponents.”
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