The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have declared over a multi-state outbreak of foodborne infections from Raw Farms unpasteurized cheese.

The E. coli O157:H7 outbreak sickened 11 people across five states. Five were hospitalized and two developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a serious condition that can cause kidney failure and brain damage.

Raw Farms, previously doing business as Organic Pastures, temporarily recalled its cheddar cheese but lifted that recall before the outbreak was declared over. Epidemiologic data showed that Raw Farm brand raw cheddar cheese made people sick in this outbreak.

The illnesses started between Oct. 18, 2023, and Feb. 5, 2024, suggesting a long-running problem at the dairy operation. 

The true number of sick people in this outbreak was likely much higher than the number reported, and the outbreak may not have been limited to the states with known illnesses. This is because many people recover without medical care and are not tested for E. coli.

The reported number of sick people ranged in age from 2 years to 27 years. Two-thirds of them were male.

State and local public health officials interviewed people about the foods they ate in the week before they got sick. Of the 10 interviewed, 7 specifically reported eating Raw Farms brand raw cheddar cheese. This suggested that people in this outbreak got sick from eating Raw Farm raw cheddar cheese.

Whole genome sequencing, also called DNA fingerprinting, showed that all sick people’s samples were genetically related, suggesting they got sick from eating the same food.

Officials in California, Colorado, and Utah collected various Raw Farm products for testing, including raw milk, raw butter, raw cheddar cheese, and raw kefir. However, the product samples were from different patches that the sick people ate. None of the samples detected E. coli.

It is illegal to sell unpasteurized, raw milk across state lines because of health concerns, but that law does not extend to raw cheese.

  • Local and state public health officials nationwide urge consumers not to eat or drink unpasteurized, raw milk and its products because they can carry bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria, and Campylobacter. According to health officials, pasteurization kills the bacteria but does not decrease the health benefits of dairy products. 

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