This just in, courtesy of Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services.

“Bacteria That Caused Illnesses Among School Event Attendees Matches Strain Found In Unpasteurized Milk From Local Farm”

“MADISON – Laboratory test results show that the Campylobactor jejuni bacteria that caused diarrheal illness among 16 individuals who drank unpasteurized (raw) milk at a school event early this month in Raymond was the same bacteria strain found in unpasteurized milk produced at a local farm, according to officials from the Department of Health Services (DHS) and Western Racine County Health Department (WRCHD). A parent had supplied unpasteurized milk from the farm for the school event.

Stool samples submitted to the WRCHD by ill students and adults were sent to the State Laboratory of Hygiene where they tested positive for the bacteria. Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) food inspectors collected milk samples from the bulk tank at the farm, which tested positive for Campylobacter jejuni. Further testing by the State Hygiene lab showed the bacteria strain from the stool samples and the milk samples matched. Additionally, interviews with event attendees revealed that consuming the unpasteurized milk was statistically associated with illness. Health officials said that this combination of laboratory and epidemiologic evidence indicates that the illnesses were caused by the unpasteurized milk consumed at the school event.

Campylobacter jejuni bacteria can cause diarrhea, which can be bloody, abdominal cramping, fever, nausea and vomiting. Rarely, an infection may lead to paralysis after initial symptoms have disappeared. Campylobacter can be transmitted by consuming food contaminated directly or indirectly by animal feces or handled by someone with the infection who has not adequately washed hands after using the bathroom.

The farm did not sell the unpasteurized milk and there was no legal violation associated with the milk being brought to the school event. The farm is licensed and in good standing with the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.”

Note the last paragraph. Since the farm did not SELL the unpasteurized milk, there was no legal violation. But that doesn’t make the farm’s actions either sensible or safe – as 16 people have just learned the hard way.

Also, raw milk advocates who deny that unpasteurized milk can be the source of food-borne disease, please note. The identical strain – the outbreak strain – of Campylobacter jejuni was recovered from stool samples of the outbreak victims AND was found in milk samples taken from the bulk milk tank at the farm. This is not “just” epidemiological evidence. The trigger was pulled and the gun was still smoking.

Raw milk is a high risk food and should never be offered – not even for free – to a susceptible population. That includes school children.