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Utah: Health Alert Issued for Raw Milk

Mar 22, 2007 | AP Utah County health officials issued a warning against raw milk consumption after seven cases of a severe food-borne illness were linked to products from the same dairy.

Utah's Department of Agriculture and Food has issued a notice of investigation Wednesday to Woolsey's Dairy in Payson, where the sick consumers said they purchased raw milk.

State investigators spent Wednesday at the dairy collecting milk samples that will be tested through the weekend, said Richard Clark, who oversees the division in charge of dairy regulation.

"It will help us be able to determine if the milk currently being produced is contaminated or not and it will help us locate and focus on whether it's in the animal or in the production," he said.

There have been 15 confirmed cases of the illness and seven of the cases were traced back to raw milk from Woolsey's Dairy.

Lars Woolsey, director of the dairy, said he had heard the health inspectors may be coming this week and had samples sent off to be tested on Monday. Woolsey said he expected the results next week.

"I don't know. I'm hoping that it's not my milk and I don't believe it is," Woolsey said. "We're selling over 400 bottles of milk a day and I think we'd have a lot more than four or five people sick if it was our milk."

All of the cases have tested positive for Campylobacter, a common bacterial infection that can cause diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain and fever usually lasting about one week, health department spokesman Lance Madigan said.

Severe cases can result in a life-threatening infection. Most people fall ill within 1-to-10 days after exposure.

Doctors are required to report the disease, which was first brought to the health department's attention on Monday, he said.

Only one person has been hospitalized and several of the sick are from the same family.

Last year the county recorded 39 cases of the disease, but not all were linked to the consumption of raw food products, Madigan said.

"You can contract it in other ways. It's not necessarily a given that it came from raw milk. We're still investigating," Madigan said.

Epidemiologists are conducting DNA tests and looking at 16 markers to determine if all 15 cases are linked, he said.

Woolsey's Dairy produces about 100 gallons of raw milk daily and is believed to sell that within a 48 hour period, Clark said. Dairies are inspected four times annually. Clark did not know when the dairy had last been inspected or if there was a documented history of problems there.

Health department officials recommend consumers discard any recently purchased raw milk and see a doctors if they begin to suffer any symptoms of the illness.

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