At least 56 people are sick in the United Kingdom with Campylobacter infections after drinking raw milk purchased from a vending machine on a farm. The patient age range is from one year to 86 years. Sales of raw milk from that farm were suspended after the outbreak was discovered. A judge banned the farm from selling any more of its unpasteurized milk last week.
The farm is Low Sizergh Barn Farm in Kendal, UK. The raw cow milk was recalled in December 2016 after the outbreak was first announced. According to news sources, the farms’ owner allegedly knew that the milk contained bacteria but kept selling it.
The number of registered farms that produce and sell raw milk in the UK has decreased in the last 20 years from 570 to 100. It is illegal to sell raw milk and cream in Scotland. The farm’s owner is cooperating with the investigation.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) in England is leading the investigation at the farm. A spokesman said in a statement, “The number of confirmed cases is small but it is important that we let people know about the situation in case others have been affected. The FSA is leading on the ongoing investigation at the farm and they are working to ensure measures are in place to prevent the public consuming unsafe products.
“Unpasteurised milk was removed from sale at the premises as soon as the cambylobacter results were confirmed. Long-standing FSA advice has been that vulnerable people – that’s older people, infants, children, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems – are particularly vulnerable to food poisoning and that is why these groups should not be consuming raw drinking milk because it has not been heat treated.”
If you visited this farm shop, including the tea room, in the last two months, consumed raw milk, and are experiencing the symptoms of Campylobacter food poisoning, see your doctor. The symptoms of this illness include abdominal pain, diarrhea that may be bloody, and vomiting.
One of the complications of a Campylobacter infection is Guillain-Barre Syndrome, which can cause complete paralysis. GBS can last for months and can cause neurological damage in addition to paralysis.
Campylobacter outbreaks linked to raw milk have occurred in the United States. Three outbreaks were linked to The Family Cow dairy in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania in 2012 and 2013. A Campylobacter outbreak in Alaska associated with raw milk sickened at least 18 people in 2013. In 2015, a Campylobacter and E. coli outbreak was linked to raw milk from Natural Farm Fresh Dairy in Kuna, Idaho. In 2016, there were two Campylobacter outbreaks linked to raw milk. In Ohio, a Campylobacter outbreak was linked to Sweet Grass Dairy raw milk, and in Colorado, an outbreak that sickened at least 20 people was linked to raw milk from Larga Vista Ranch in Pueblo County.
Experts warn consumers not to drink raw milk or eat raw milk products. While not everyone who consumes these products gets sick, the risk is serious, especially for the very young, the elderly, those with a chronic illness, and people with compromised immune systems. There is no established health benefit to drinking raw milk.