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New York Dairy Stops Sales After Listeria Found in Another Raw Milk Farm

Aug 5, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
Listeria Found in Raw Milk

Listeria Discovered In Raw Milk

In yet another case where Listeria monocytogenes was discovered in raw milk, Autumn Valley Farm in Worcester, New York, has voluntarily suspended raw milk sales directly to consumers until follow-up sampling indicates the raw milk is free of pathogens.  According to a State Department of Agriculture and Markets, Listeria monocytogenes was found during routine testing from a sample taken by one of its inspector’s on July 22; testing was conducted in the agency's food laboratory.  Testing is scheduled to take place this week and can take seven-to-10 days for results, said Agriculture and Markets spokeswoman Jessica Chittenden, who added that sales can resume when testing shows the milk, which is unpasteurized, to be bacteria free.

Listeria is one of six pathogens tested for in raw milk, Chittenden said.  Listeriosis is a type of food poisoning generated by the Listeria monocytogenes bacteria and is dangerous to the elderly, pregnant women, newborns, and those with chronic medical conditions.  In serious cases, the disease spreads to the nervous system.  In pregnant women, Listeriosis can result in miscarriage or stillbirth.  Because listeria thrives in cold, milk is an ideal environment.

Officials Say Raw Milk Sickened Hundreds Of People

Food safety officials say raw milk has sickened hundreds of people with Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, and other harmful and potentially fatal bacteria.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), raw milk or raw milk products were implicated in 45 food-borne illness outbreaks that resulted in over 1,000 cases of illness in the United States from 1998 to May 2005; two deaths occurred.  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.  But, a growing number of dairy owners sell raw milk—some illegally—as part of the growing natural food movement.  Some believe raw milk contains organisms that treat all manner of maladies, including digestive problems, asthma, and autism and feel raw milk offers greater benefits because it allegedly does not contain chemicals and hormones found in many dairy products.  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.  Chittendon says there are 21 farms in New York state with a raw milk permit and guidelines exist to help ensure public safety, including routine state testing, posting signs alerting consumers to the risks, and requiring sales to occur on the farm, where consumers can see the conditions.  Autumn Valley owner Darren McGrath said this is the second time in two years that sales have been halted for listeria. The previous halt last summer took about a month to be lifted.  "People have drank raw milk for thousands of years, while pasteurization has only been around since the mid-1800s," he said.

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