Utah public health officials are currently investigating a number of illnesses associated with the consumption of raw or unpasteurized milk. Cases have been reported in not only Cache but also Davis, Morgan, Salt Lake, Utah, and Weber counties. Utah Department of Agriculture and Food Public Information Officer Larry Lewis explained that raw milk comes directly from the cow or goat and is bottled and sold to the public. This milk is unpasteurized, meaning the milk could contain dangerous bacteria such as Campylobacter, Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli.
To date, 45 cases of Campylobacter infection have been reported. These were reported from May 9, 2014 to July 21, 2014. In all of these cases, the individuals consumed raw milk a week before the illness began. The cases range in age from two to 74.
All of these cases are also linked to the consumption of raw milk or cream purchased at Ropelato Dairy in Weber County.
“We worked with the owner of the dairy and determined and found that one of his employees was not properly washing and cleaning the udder of the cows,” Lewis said. “There’s a great possibility of contamination through the manure that’s present during the milking process.”
Lewis said they are also concerned because a couple of the cows might already have the bacteria in them internally, which leaves them producing contaminated milk. He said they are in the process of confirming this theory.
To clarify, organic milk and raw milk are not necessarily the same thing. Organic depends on the way of feeding the animal the milk comes from. Lewis said raw milk could or could not be organic. However, organic milk can also be pasteurized meaning it’s not raw.
Lewis added there is no way to know if raw milk is contaminated or not. It does not smell or look any different.
He said it’s also important for food handlers to do things right and by the book. If you are going to drink raw milk, only purchase from stores or dairies permitted by law to sell it. However, this does still not guarantee the milk will be free of dangerous bacteria.