Raw milk warning issued

(The Reporter, PA)

By Evelyn Short

 

Anyone who purchased raw milk from Hendricks Farm & Dairy in Franconia is advised to immediately discard it and any items made with it due to potential bacterial contamination.

 

The state Department of Agriculture suspended the farm's raw milk permit on Friday and instructed the owner to stop selling raw milk for human consumption until the permit is reinstated.

"HF&D is very concerned by the health issues some families have suffered from recently," the company said in a statement on its Web site on Sunday. "We are willingly complying with the Commonwealth's recommended temporary discontinuation of fluid raw milk sales."

Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized.

Recently, individuals who consumed raw milk purchased from the dairy were found to have gastrointestinal illness due to Campylobacter, a bacterial infection, according to a press release issued by the state's departments of health and agriculture. Since Sept. 1, a total of seven confirmed cases of Campylobacter infection have been reported among raw milk drinkers in seven unrelated households in Pennsylvania and a neighboring state. Other individuals in these households have also experienced similar gastrointestinal illness.

The Montgomery County Health Department said as of Friday that it is investigating two cases of Montgomery County residents diagnosed with Campylobacteriosis that are part of an outbreak that is occurring throughout the state.

The Department of Agriculture will require two raw milk samples drawn at least one day apart to be tested negative for bacterial pathogens before raw milk sales may resume at the dairy in Franconia.

Hendricks Farm & Dairy sells about 600 gallons weekly to more than 300 families that view its all natural, grassfed raw milk as a vital aspect of their health.

"Our track record and history consist of stellar test results and we have never had a positive pathogen test in our 7 year history," the company's statement said.

The company said that a conclusive link to the dairy has not yet been made and test results are expected on Tuesday.

Other action to ensure the safety of the public will depend upon the results of pending laboratory tests and the joint investigation by the Health and Agriculture departments.

The shelf-life for raw milk is about 14 days but can be longer if the milk is frozen. Freezing of the milk will not kill the Campylobacter bacteria, according to the state's information.

Individuals who drank raw milk or ate other raw milk products purchased from Hendricks Farm & Dairy and became ill are advised to consult with their physician. If no illness occurred, it is not necessary to seek medical attention, the state said.

Campylobacter is a bacterial infection that affects the intestinal tract and can sometimes affect the bloodstream and other organs. It is one of the most common causes of gastroenteritis, which can include diarrhea and vomiting. About 1,300 confirmed cases of Campylobacter are reported each year in Pennsylvania, according to the state.

Onset of illness usually occurs in 2 to 5 days after swallowing the bacteria. Patients often do not require specific medical treatment unless they become severely dehydrated or the infection spreads from the intestines. People with severe diarrhea may require rehydration, often with intravenous fluids.

Montgomery County has had 66 cases of Campylobacter reported in 2008 and 91 cases reported in 2007. The average number of cases in the county per year is between 80 and 90.

Campylobacter bacteria can be found in raw or undercooked fruits, vegetables, poultry and meat; in unprocessed water; and in unpasteurized dairy products, according to the county health department.

Proper cooking and proper hand-washing techniques are recommended to prevent infection. The bacteria can also be contracted through direct contact with animals, including poultry, cattle, dogs, cats, rodents and birds.

HF&D's only product affected by the suspension is fluid milk. All other products remain available and its farm store remains open. 9-15-08

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