By: Candess Zona-Mendola

The Texas Department of Health and Human Services issued a health alert this week, citing that a Texas resident is sick from drinking raw milk from the K-Bar Dairy of Paradise, Texas. According to the health alert:

“The Texas Department of State Health Services is working with a specific raw milk dairy in Wise County to recall raw, or unpasteurized, milk due to laboratory evidence that it contains harmful bacteria. DSHS is investigating additional illnesses that may be connected to this product and advising people who consumed milk from this dairy since June 1 to consult with their health care provider.

A person who drank milk from K-Bar Dairy in Paradise, Texas has been hospitalized for an infection of a strain of Brucella bacteria. The patient’s only known exposure is through the raw milk, and milk samples taken at that dairy have also tested positive for Brucella.”

Not much is known about the victim or the severity of the illness, but health officials urge anyone who drank raw milk from that dairy to seek medical attention from their providers. What we do know about the incident is that the victim complained of fever, muscle pain, and fatigue to their physician. After a positive blood culture isolating Brucella was discovered, health officials found a potential source as the victim confirmed drinking raw milk from the K-Bar Dairy. An investigation has been launched to find any other potential victims and the root cause of the contamination.

Brucellosis

Brucellosis, the infection caused by Brucella bacteria, is typically transmitted from animals or animal products to humans through ingestion. The animals that are most commonly infected include sheep, cattle, goats, and pigs, among others. Wild game are also possible vectors of the illness.

Unlike typical symptoms of food poisoning, victims of Brucellosis do not have vomiting or diarrhea. The symptoms of this kind of infection include: fever, sweats, malaise, anorexia, headache, pain in muscles, joint pain, back pain, and fatigue. There are further concerning complications and symptoms is more severe cases, which include: recurrent fever, arthritis, swelling of the testicles and scrotum, inflammation of the heart, neurological symptoms, chronic fatigue, depression, and swelling of the liver and spleen. Those in high risk health conditions (including the elderly, very young, immunocompromised individuals, and pregnant women) the risk of severe infection is concerning. Pregnant women are especially at high risk for fetal complications, premature delivery, miscarriage, and intrauterine infection with fetal death. The infection is also transmitted through breastfeeding.

Those who are infected are typically treated with antibiotics. However, in this particular case, the strain of the bacteria is resistant.

Outbreaks Concerning Raw Milk and Raw Milk Products

Raw milk outbreaks are on the rise in the United States. This is a concerning phenomenon as the main purpose for the invention pasteurization was so that foodborne illness decreased. Yet through the whole food revolution and the mass acceptance of unproven “scientific” evidence that raw milk is safe, more and more people are believing raw milk is safe to drink. A scarier truth is that many now believe raw milk has healing and miracle properties. Some claim it cures ADD. Others swear it reduces asthma symptoms and allergies. Raw milk has essentially become the snake oil of our modern era.

But we forget milk was once a dangerous food. It was a cause for millions of deaths each year before pasteurization became widely used. Tuberculosis to salmonella, typhoid fever, diphtheria, and many others were common side effects of drinking what we put in our cereal in the morning. Historian John Steele Gordon poignantly highlighted that deaths related to milk was commonplace before the adoption of pasteurization in the biopic of Nathan Straus. According to his notes, “In 1891… 24 percent of babies born in New York City died before their first birthday. But of the 20,111 children fed on pasteurized milk supplied by Nathan Straus over a four-year period, only six died.”

There is no debate that pasteurization has saved many lives. There is also no debate that there is a real danger to drinking raw milk. Even those who advocate raw milk drinking highlight the statistical likelihood of illness from drinking the product. They, however, neglect to mention one vital detail – that when illnesses do occur, they are almost always severe. The CDC and the FDA have been paramount in their plight to bring the truth to the American public. The FDA’s website mentions:

“According to an analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 1993 and 2006 more than 1500 people in the United States became sick from drinking raw milk or eating cheese made from raw milk. In addition, CDC reported 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.”

But that was not enough. The CDC revisited the study and examined statistics from outbreaks associated with pasteurized milk from 2007 – 2012. The results only confirmed the truth – outbreaks are becoming more and more frequent among raw milk drinkers. The CDC’s study comments: From 2007 through 2012, 26 states reported 81 outbreaks linked to raw milk. The outbreaks caused 979 illnesses and 73 hospitalizations.” For those keeping track, that means there have been four times more outbreaks. That means 81% of outbreaks reported occurred in states where raw milk is legal.

The increase can be causally linked to legislation and co-ops. Despite that there are federal laws prohibiting the transport of raw milk across state lines to sell, that is not stopping co-ops (or groups of people purchasing a product in bulk them splitting it amongst themselves) from shipping raw milk to their members. Legislators have also championed for the allotment of raw milk sales in their states. Some have even become ill after celebrating the passage of their law – ironically from raw milk. Again, the science appears to be forgotten during the passage of the laws.

UnsafeFoods will continue to update on this outbreak and other raw milk outbreaks as more information becomes available.

 

Sources:

Lina Gutherz Straus, Disease in Milk: The Remedy, Pasteurization—The Life Work of Nathan Straus (E. P. Dutton, 1917)

https://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm079516.htm

https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/rawmilk/rawmilk-outbreaks.html

http://modernfarmer.com/2016/03/west-virginia-lawmakers-raw-milk-sick/

http://milk4texas.org/issues/raw-milk/

http://www.dshs.texas.gov/news/releases/2017/20170814.aspx

http://www.dshs.texas.gov/news/releases/2017/HealthAlert-08142017.aspx