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Some cases of E. coli linked to raw milk

Some cases of E. coli linked to raw milk

Milk_001The Health Departments in Kent, Ottawa, and Muskegon Counties announced Friday that two cases of E. coli 0157:H7 in West Michigan have been traced back to consumption of raw milk products from an Ottawa County cow share program.

In March, a 31-year-old Muskegon County woman became ill after drinking raw milk, and in April, a 6-year-old child from Kent County became ill after possible consumption of the raw milk product.

Raw or unpasteurized milk (sometimes called fresh milk or fresh unprocessed milk) is milk that comes directly from a cow, goat, sheep or other animal’s udder and is not heat treated (pasteurized) to kill bacteria.

Contamination of milk occurs when fecal matter is present on the udder of an animal or in the equipment used to process the milk. Enough bacteria to cause illness can be present and not be visibly dirty upon inspection. You cannot see or smell the germs in raw milk that make people sick.

Some believe drinking raw milk products is more nutritious and provides the body with good bacteria. The Health Departments say that the pasteurizing process does not significantly change the nutritional value of milk, and due to the risk of serious illness, there are safer sources of good bacteria than raw milk, such as pasteurized probiotic yogurts, kefir, and other products with probiotics.

The CDC reports that unpasteurized milk is 150 times more likely to cause foodborne illness, and results in 13 times more hospitalizations than illnesses involving pasteurized dairy products. Due to poorly developed immune systems, infants and children are at greater risk for becoming sick and are more likely to suffer from long-term damage from diseases linked to drinking raw milk.

Due to the health risk of consuming raw milk, it is not legal to sell raw milk or raw milk products in the State of Michigan. Because of this, raw milk is obtained through herd share programs. In a herd share program, consumers purchase a share of a cow and, as the owner of the cow, are provided raw milk from the farmer. These herd share dairy programs are not licensed or inspected by state or local agencies.

The Health Department advises that if you or someone you know has become ill in the days following consumption of a raw milk product, seek medical attention. Symptoms of illness include vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain along with fever, headache, and body ache. They cautioned that pregnant women, infants, small children, the elderly, and people with chronic illnesses should never consume raw milk products.

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