Town Farm Dairy’s Raw Milk May be Linked to E. coli

Town Farm Dairy is the only farm in Connecticut certified to sell raw, organic milk and now, four people have become sick with <"">E. coli since purchasing milk from Town Farm Dairy.  The Dairy is a nonprofit that leases land from the town and maintains approximately two dozen milking cows that produce raw, skim, one percent, and pasteurized milk in glass bottles.

“We have ordered the Town Farm Dairy, as of yesterday, to cease all operations until we have reports back from the Department of Agriculture and Department of Health,” said Simsbury First Selectman John Hampton. We want to make sure everything coming out of there is safe, is pristine for the public, and until we know that the farm will be closed indefinitely.”

In the first E. coli case, a two-year-old fell ill last month.  The second cased followed five days later and struck a seven-year-old.  Officials report two additional cases.  “At the present time, there is no confirmation that the illnesses are directly related to Town Farm Dairy, but we do want to be extra vigilant to make sure all our residents are safe,” said Hampton.

The Connecticut state Department of Agriculture had been taking samples from the farm for analysis, officials said however, they have been unable to isolate any organism that might have caused the outbreak.  The department plans to continue investigating, along with Consumer Protection, the state Department of Health, and the Regional Health District.  “We’ve had and still have hopes for the dairy farm that it could be preserved and protected and operational in some capacity, and so we’re optimistic,” said Hampton.

In a recent  E. coli case linked to raw milk, three adults and 15 children were sickened by raw milk traced back to Dee Creek’s dairy and three of the children were hospitalized with renal failure, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  Michael and Anita Puckett, owners of Dee Creek’s, pleaded guilty to distribution of adulterated food involved in the December 2005 E. coli outbreak that involved raw milk and sickened 18 people in Washington and Oregon.  The couple faces a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine at their September 5 sentencing later this year. The case was prosecuted in federal court because the milk crossed state lines.

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.  Despite this, a growing number of dairy owners have been selling raw milk—some illegally—as part of the growing natural food movement.

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), 1,000 people fell ill from raw milk between 1998 and 2005. Two died.

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