Tennessee officials have matched the strain of E. coli that sickened nine children in a raw milk outbreak to a Knox County, Tenn., dairy at the center of the case.
Last week, the Tennessee Department of Health announced its findings. The strain of E. coli found in the outbreak was matched to animal waste collected at McBee Dairy.
“This outbreak points out, again, the serious risks associated with drinking unpasteurized or ‘raw’ milk,” Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner said in a statement. “While people with stronger immune systems may be able to overcome the bacteria found in raw milk, children, older people, pregnant women and those with health conditions can be seriously harmed by bacteria in non-pasteurized milk products and should not consume them.”
State Epidemiologist Dr. Tim Jones added that “milk from the healthiest-appearing cows in the cleanest dairy operations can still contain deadly microorganisms.
“Those who consume raw milk are playing Russian roulette with their health; the glass they drink today may not have deadly microorganisms, but the one they drink tomorrow may cause serious health problems or even death,” he advised.
Dairy owner Marcie McBee said in an email to Food Safety News that the dairy has regular testing in place now that “will show us if we have clean milk.”
Even so, she said regular testing “still does not make the milk 100 percent safe, as no living food is 100 percent protected from having a bacteria enter it.”
McBee also blames the state in failing to inform them about what they could have been doing to prevent E. coli from getting into their milk.
“The health department has done nothing to help us improve or locate a problem here,” she said. “We have not been informed on any testing that we could have done or could incorporate to detect or prevent a problem.”
The outbreak sent five children to the hospital. One of cases was five-year-old Maddie Powell, who was hospitalized for nearly a month after developing hemolytic uremic syndrome, a potentially fatal kidney disease associated with severe E. coli infections. Powell was released from the hospital over the weekend.