A veteran dairy farmer from central Missouri has heard about an E. coli outbreak in his area that has sickened 13 people and now wonders aloud if raw milk is harming the reputation of other dairy farmers.
"We've been opposed to this raw milk thing for a long time because it gives dairy farmers a bad name," David Braun, owner of a 120-cow, 400-acre farm in Cole County, Mo., told KRCG13 News.
The 77-year-old noted that his farm follows strict sanitation guidelines.
Raw milk has been linked to E.coli outbreaks in Missouri and Oregon, and the number of adults -- and children -- sickened by the contaminated milk continues to grow.
At least 17 people in Oregon have fallen ill after drinking raw milk from the Foundation Farm near Wilsonville, Ore., according to a report by OregonLive. Of the 17 confirmed cases, four are children who are have now been hospitalized. Three of them, including a one-year-old, are currently on kidney support.
Owners of the Foundation Farm have voluntarily suspended distribution of their milk.
In Missouri, the number of people sickened has grown to 13, including two young children. Six of those cases have been linked to raw milk sold from an unnamed dairy farm in Howard County, Mo., as reported by the Associated Press.
The Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune first reported the outbreak last week. By Thursday, health officials reported a 17-month-old with symptoms of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a severe condition that can lead to permanent kidney damage in some who survive the illness. According to the Center for Food Security and Public Health, HUS is fatal in 3 to 10 percent of children.
Supporters of raw milk often take risks in consuming the unpasteurized milk, which is 150 times more likely to be the cause of an outbreak than pasteurized milk.
Alvaro Garcia, extension dairy specialist at South Dakota State University, has addressed some of the common misconceptions surrounding the issue. He refutes the notion, often cited by raw milk supporters, that raw milk is healther because enzymes and nutrients are destroyed during pasteurization.
"Research has not been able to prove these claims," Garcia says. "In fact, recent research has proven that aside from 10 percent loss in vitamin C, the rest of the vitamins were not affected. In the same trial the main milk enzymes lactoferrin, lacto-peroxidase, and lysozyme maintained highly significant activity after pasteurization."