State: Tests show no bacteria in raw milk

(Bucks County Courier Times, PA)

By LOU SESSINGER

Lab tests on samples of raw milk from a Montgomery County farm linked to an outbreak of gastrointestinal illness in at least 10 people came back negative for the campylobacter bacteria, the state Department of Agriculture reported on Wednesday.

However, a sample of raw milk purchased at the farm by a Bucks County resident did contain the bacteria.

Campylobacter, sometimes found in raw, unpasteurized milk and other animal products, causes diarrhea.

Chris Ryder, a spokesman for the Department of Agriculture, said samples taken from the milk tanks at Hendricks Farms and Dairy in Franconia on Sept. 11 didn’t contain campylobacter.

The department is awaiting the results of tests on samples taken on subsequent days. All of those results are expected by the end of the week.

Ryder said a sample submitted by the Bucks County Health Department tested positive for campylobacter. The sample was obtained from “a consumer” who had purchased the raw milk at Hendricks prior to Sept. 11.

But Trent Hendricks, owner of the farm, considers that finding “suspect.”

The milk container had been opened, there was no indication of how it was handled and it could have been past its recommended use by date.

“It was out of our control,” he said.

Hendricks points to the fact that no pathogens have ever been found in the milk at his farm and the farm has never been found in violation of any regulations. “We have the best track record in the state.”

Hendricks is the only dairy in Montgomery County licensed by the Department of Agriculture to sell raw milk. That license has been suspended during the investigation of the campylobacter outbreak.

Ryder said that Hendricks’ raw milk license could be reinstated late this week or early next week pending the results of the remaining tests and an inspection of the farm.

That will be no time too soon for Hendricks, who said the inability to sell raw milk has been an economic blow.

Health officials in Montgomery County said four people in that county, four in Bucks and two in New York were sickened with campylobacteriosis after consuming raw milk from Hendricks. There could be as many as 20 cases of the disease.

Raw milk proponents say it is healthier than pasteurized milk because the pasteurization process kills beneficial bacteria, enzymes and vitamins in addition to harmful bacteria.

The Food and Drug Administration “strongly advises against” drinking raw milk because it may be unsafe, no matter how carefully it is produced. 9-18-08

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