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Listeria Warning for Raw Milk from Upstate NY Dairy

Jun 5, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP
Listeria Warning for Raw Milk

Raw Milk May Be Tainted With Listeria

Raw milk from an Upstate New York dairy may be tainted with listeria, state health officials warned today.  Consumers are being advised not to drink raw milk from Breese Hollow Dairy in Hoosick Falls,  and the dairy has suspended production until testing proves its milk is free of listeria and other pathogens.

According to a press release from the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets, Breese Hollow holds a Department permit to legally sell raw milk at the farm.  Samples are taken monthly and tested by the Department to determine if the raw milk is free of pathogenic bacteria.

A routine sample of the milk, taken by an inspector from the Division of Milk Control and Dairy Services on May 26, 2009, was subsequently tested by the Department’s Food Laboratory and discovered to be contaminated with listeria monocytogenes.  On May 29, 2009, the producer was notified of a preliminary positive test result and volunteered to suspend raw milk sales until the sample results were confirmed.  Test results were confirmed on June 3, 2009 and the producer is prohibited from selling raw milk until subsequent sampling indicates that the product is free of pathogens.

Listeria contaminated foods may cause listeriosis, a disease that usually causes mild flu-like symptoms in healthy individuals; however in immune-compromised individuals, meningitis and blood poisoning can occur.  Pregnant women are also considered a high-risk group, as listeriosis can also result in stillbirths.

Raw Milk Has Not Been Pasteurized

Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized.  According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), raw milk or raw milk products were implicated in 45 outbreaks that resulted in over 1,000 illnesses and two deaths in the United States during 1998-2005.    In 1938, milk was the cause of 25 percent of all food- and water-related sickness.  With the introduction of universal pasteurization—long considered one of the most successful public health endeavors of the last century—that number fell to one percent by 1993.

Some people believe raw milk contains organisms that treat all manner of maladies, including digestive problems, asthma, and autism, saying raw milk offers greater benefits because it allegedly does not contain chemicals and hormones.  This growing contingent says the heat necessary for pasteurization kills healthy natural proteins and enzymes.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) disagrees and insists pasteurization destroys harmful bacteria without significantly changing milk’s nutritional value.  It is illegal to sell raw milk for human consumption in 22 states.  The other states allow raw milk sales within their borders; the FDA bans sales across state lines.

According to the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets, producers in that state who sell raw milk to consumers must have a permit to do so from the Department, must sell directly to consumers on the farm where the milk is produced and must post a notice at the point of sale indicating that raw milk does not provide the protection of pasteurization.  Farms with permits to sell raw milk are inspected by the Department monthly.

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