An E coli outbreak in Missouri is growing quickly and has now sickened at least 12 people in six counties, according to the latest information from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (MDHSS).
Some of the E. coli O157:H7 bacterial infections in Boone, Camden, Clark, Cooper, Howard and Jackson counties have been linked to raw milk, according to state health officials. Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized. Many public officials, including those Missouri, advise against consuming raw milk.
An MDHSS fact sheet on raw milk states:
“It is widely considered an unnecessary health risk to consume raw milk or milk that has not been pasteurized to kill harmful germs (bacteria, viruses and parasites). Many consumers may not fully understand the risk raw milk can pose. The risk is comparable to that of eating raw ground beef or raw ground poultry and, in many cases, the germs that are present are similar.
The most common germs found in raw milk include Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella spp., Campylobacter jejuni, Yersinia enterocolitica, Escherichia coli (E. coli 0157‐H7), and mastitis-causing germs such as Streptococcus aureus. Some of these are found in the environment and/or in the feces of animals commonly used for milk. Germs may vary according to the time of year, geographic location, herd size, and farm management practices.”
Laws governing the sale of raw milk vary from state to state. In Missouri, the sale of raw milk is legal by permitted producers. Raw milk products must be labeled, but the regulations do not require the label to include consumer warnings.
From 2009- 2011, 89 people in Missouri were sickened by raw milk or raw dairy products and 12 of them required hospitalization, according to a recent MDHSS raw milk food poisoning report.