June 17, 2024

Campylobacter Causes the Most Raw Milk Outbreaks

Campylobacter is the source of most raw milk outbreaks, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The study, which found raw milk outbreaks are on the rise, compared data from the two-year periods 2007-2009 and 2010-2012.

Milk SplashCampylobacter causes an illness in humans called campylobacteriosis which produces diarrheal illness, fever, and abdominal cramps that can last up to 10 days. In rare cases, a Campylobacter infection can cause Guillain-Barré syndrome, an illness that causes paralysis and death.

In every year from 2007 to 2012, Campylobacter was the source of the majority of raw milk outbreaks, accounting for 81 percent of them overall. E. coli caused the second most with 17 percent, Salmonella was third with 3 percent and Coxiella burnetii was responsible for 1 percent.  Three of the outbreaks in the study had multiple bacterial sources.

One of the largest recent raw milk outbreaks was in Durand, Wisconsin in September 2014 when 38 people who attended a potluck for the football team were sickened, and 10 people were hospitalized.

Most of those who became sick, 33 of the 38, were high school students. So many football players were sick for so long that two football games had to be canceled.

The milk was provided by a parent who did not tell attendees that the milk was unpasteurized. Laws governing the sale of raw milk vary from state to state. In Wisconsin it’s illegal to sell or distribute raw milk, said Fred Pritzker, a national food safety attorney who publishes Food Poisoning Bulletin. Pritzker, who has represented many clients sickened by raw milk, debated raw milk advocates at the Harvard Food Law Society in 2012.

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