SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Officials with the Utah Department of Health and Human Services and the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food said they have found the source for the raw unpasteurized milk that caused a small outbreak of illness earlier this month.
Investigators isolated the source of the milk to Utah Natural Meat and Milk, a dairy company located in West Jordan. According to the DHHS, 12 of the 14 people infected with Campylobacter reported drinking raw milk they bought at the dairy the day before they got sick. Investigators said the bacteria found in the milk is the same genetic Campylobacter strain that infected those who got sick.
“The dairy’s license to sell raw cow’s milk has been suspended pending further testing,” said DHHS. “Company officials have cooperated fully with the investigation and are working closely with the UDAF to address any issues that caused the bacteria to contaminate the milk.”
While Utah Natural Meat and Milk is no longer allowed to sell raw cow milk for the time being, the company is still open and is selling other products. DHHS said no new cases of Campylobacter matching the strain has been identified since.
The ages of the 14 people infected ranged from as young as two years old to as old as 73. Two of the individuals were reportedly hospitalized but are now at home recovering.
Kristen Bowler with Utah Natural Meat told ABC4 that foodborne illnesses occasionally affect producers, large and small at some point.
“We are committed to and have maintained high standards and have cooperated with officials as we work to understand and isolate any issues,” said Bowler. The company declined to comment further due to the ongoing investigation.
Campylobacteriosis is a bacterial infection that can come from drinking raw milk that has not been pasteurized to kill harmful bacteria. Health officials say pasteurization is the only effective way to get rid of most harmful germs in raw dairy products.
The bacteria can cause a range of symptoms including diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, nausea and vomiting. Illness can last longer than a week and can be serious, especially for children, pregnant women and vulnerable adults. Anyone who has recently consumed raw milk or any raw milk products should speak to a healthcare provider if they show any symptoms.
The Utah Department of Health and Human Services says the public should only consume dairy products that have been pasteurized. Grocery stores in Utah may only sell pasteurized dairy products with raw milk products only available directly from farm to consumer. DHHS said farms that sell raw milk must be licensed by the UDAF.
Health officials warn that contaminated raw milk does not look or smell any different from uncontaminated milk, meaning there is no easy to know if it will cause illness. People who choose to consume raw milk or raw milk products are advised to heat raw milk to 165 degrees Fahrenheit at least for 15 seconds and then let it cool. Raw milk should also be stored in a refrigerated area below 40 degrees and should never sit out a room temperature.
DHHS said there have been 25 documented outbreaks of campylobacteriosis in Utah since 2009. Nearly 300 have become ill during these outbreaks.