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FDA Alerts Consumers on Campylobacter in Raw Milk


The US Food and Drug Administration has issued an alert regarding at least 12 confirmed illnesses in Michigan that are associated with the bacteria Campylobacter in raw, unpasteurized milk.

The FDA is collaborating with the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) among other state agencies to investigate the outbreak which originated from raw milk produced by Forest Grove Dairy in Middlebury, Indiana.

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Although Salmonella is better known among the general public, Campylobacter jejuni is the most common cause of bacterial foodborne illness in the world. It is also the most common cause of the rare disease Guillain-Barre syndrome that may result in permanent paralysis. Each year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) receives over 10,000 case reports of campylobacteriosis, however, it is likely that many more go unreported.

Raw milk is unpasteurized milk from mammals such as cows, sheep, or goats. It may contain a wide variety of harmful bacteria, including Salmonella, E. Coli, Listeria and Brucella in addition to Campylobacter. Symptoms of infection include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, headache, and body ache. Most healthy individuals will recover quickly, however, the bacterial infection is especially dangerous for pregnant women, the elderly, infants, young children, and those with weakened immune systems.

Between 1998 and 2008, 85 outbreaks of human infection resulting from the consumption of raw milk were reported to the CDC, which included 187 hospitalizations and 2 deaths. Campylobacter was the most common pathogen, but is readily destroyed during pasteurization, required by the FDA since 1987 for milk prepared for interstate commerce.

Those who promote the drinking of raw milk claim that it is more nutritious, because the heating that occurs during pasteurization kills healthful nutrients and that raw milk is already antimicrobial, so the process is unnecessary. According to an FDA review of the available research, there is no meaningful difference between the nutrient content of pasteurized and unpasteurized milk.