November 26, 2014

Missouri E. coli Outbreak Sickens 15, Farm Ends Raw Milk Sales

Raw milk that may be the source of an E.coli outbreak in Missouri that has sickened at least 15 people, came from a Howard County farm that has permanently ended raw milk sales, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

Laws governing the sale of raw milk vary from state to state. In Missouri, the sale of raw milk is banned with two exceptions, according to the Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA). At farmers’ markets, producers who have a permit can sell raw milk. Currently, Missouri has on permitted facility, located in Galena, according MDA. The other exception, is buying raw milk on-farm for individual use, which was the case with the Howard County farm associated with this outbreak.

Seven of the 15 people with confirmed cases of E. coli 0157:H7 infections drank milk from the Howard County farm before becoming ill. So far, this is the only commonality officials have identified with the cases. Eight people with confirmed cases did not drink milk from the farm and eight samples taken from the farm all tested negative for the outbreak strain.

It takes only a small amount of E. coli to make someone very sick.  Recently, Food Poisoning Bulletin interviewed Heidi Kassenborg DVM, and director of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Dairy and Food Inspection Division, and Joni Scheftel DVM, from the Minnesota Department Health who explained that pathogens aren’t evenly mixed within a tank of milk.  “Bacteria do not get evenly distributed throughout a product. They tend to group in clusters.  So milk taken from one part of the bulk tank may be contaminated while the rest is not.

Four of confirmed case patients are from Boone County, the others are from Camden, Clark, Cooper, Howard and Jackson counties.

Missouri public health officials advise consumers not to drink raw milk because of the dangerous pathogens it can contain and advise anyone with symptoms of an infection including abdominal cramping and diarrhea which is often bloody, to seek medical attention.

 

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