March 22, 2018

Raw Milk Campylobacter Outbreak Widens in Pennsylvania, Maryland

Another six people have been infected with the pathogen Campylobacter in a food poisoning outbreak that Pennsylvania and Maryland health officials have associated with the Family Cow raw milk produced at the Shankstead Ecofarm in Franklin County, Pa.

News reports from the region say a total of 12 illnesses have now been linked to consumption of the unpasteurized milk that Family Cow sells at more than 20 health food stores and more than 25 drop points in south-central Pennsylvania, around Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and in eastern Pennsylvania. In Maryland, 4 people have fallen ill, while 8 in Pennsylvania have been sickened.

The farm has temporarily suspended raw milk sales pending microbiological testing results. Meanwhile, consumers are still advised by public health officials not to consume any Family Cow raw milk purchased since January 1, 2012.

Campylobacterosis can lead to a life-threatening disease known as GBS, or Guillain Barre Syndrome. GBS patients often experience respiratory failure and can lose motor function or become paralyzed. In the last Pennsylvania raw milk Campylobacter outbreak in 2010, a 67-year-old man from Mars, Pennsylvania, was paralyzed from head to toe as a result of drinking tainted raw milk from a farm in New Castle.

Campylobacter is one of several dangerous micro-organisms (Salmonella and toxic E. coli are two others) associated with raw milk. The pathogens are emitted from cows and other animals in their feces. As it has happens over and over again, molecules find their way into the milk and can multiply or cluster if conditions are right. If the milk were pasteurized, flash heat would kill the bacteria without degrading the milk’s nutritional value.

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