FDA warns consumers not to drink raw milk from Tucker Adkins Dairy

Three confirmed and five probable cases of campylobacteriosis seen in North Carolina

Fast Facts

  • The FDA is warning consumers not to drink raw milk from Tucker Adkins Dairy of York, S.C.
  • Three confirmed cases and five probable cases of campylobacteriosis in North Carolina are associated with raw milk from Tucker Adkins Dairy.
  • Campylobacter is one of the most common causes of diarrheal illness in the United States.  
  • Although retail sale of raw milk is legal in South Carolina, it is illegal to distribute raw milk in final package form for direct human consumption in interstate commerce. Retail sale of raw milk for human consumption is also illegal in North Carolina.
  • Raw milk is unpasteurized milk and is known to contain many pathogens harmful to human health, including Salmonella, E. coli, Campylobacter, Tuberculosis, Listeria, Diphtheria and Brucella.
  • Pasteurization is a reliable method for eliminating harmful bacteria from milk, and is the only method used in the United States.

What is the Problem?

The FDA is working with officials in North Carolina and South Carolina to investigate an outbreak of campylobacteriosis in three people who consumed raw milk from Tucker Adkins Dairy in York, S.C. The three confirmed cases and another five probable cases are from three different households and each case reports that prior to becoming ill they consumed raw milk that was obtained from Tucker Adkins Dairy on June 14, 2011.  The onset of illness in these cases occurred in mid June. One person was hospitalized.

The FDA recommends that consumers only drink pasteurized milk.  Raw milk is unpasteurized milk from hoofed mammals, such as cows, sheep, or goats. Raw milk may contain a wide variety of harmful bacteria – including Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, Listeria, Campylobacter and Brucella -- that may cause illness and possibly death. Public health authorities, including FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have expressed concerns about the hazards of drinking raw milk for decades.

Symptoms of illness caused by various bacteria commonly found in raw milk may include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, headache and body ache. Most healthy individuals recover quickly from illness caused by raw milk. However, some people may have more severe illness, and the harmful bacteria in raw milk can be especially dangerous for pregnant women, the elderly, infants, young children and people with weakened immune systems.  

If consumers of raw milk are experiencing one or more of these symptoms after consuming raw milk or food products made from raw milk, they should contact their health care provider immediately.

Since 1987, the FDA has required all milk packaged for human consumption to be pasteurized before being delivered for introduction into interstate commerce. Pasteurization, a process that heats milk to a specific temperature for a set period of time, kills bacteria responsible for diseases, such as listeriosis, salmonellosis, campylobacteriosis, typhoid fever, tuberculosis, diphtheria and brucellosis. FDA's pasteurization requirement also applies to other milk products, with the exception of a few aged cheeses.

From 1998 to 2008, 85 outbreaks of human infections resulting from consumption of raw milk were reported to CDC. These outbreaks included a total of 1,614 reported illnesses, 187 hospitalizations and 2 deaths. Because not all cases of foodborne illness are recognized and reported, the actual number of illnesses associated with raw milk likely is greater.

Proponents of drinking raw milk often claim that raw milk is more nutritious than pasteurized milk and that raw milk is inherently antimicrobial, thus making pasteurization unnecessary.  There is no meaningful nutritional difference between pasteurized and raw milk, and raw milk does not contain compounds that will kill harmful bacteria. 

What are the Symptoms of Illness/Injury?

Most people who become ill with campylobacteriosis get diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever within two to five days after exposure to the organism. The diarrhea may be bloody and can be accompanied by nausea and vomiting.

Most people who get campylobacteriosis recover completely within two to five days, although sometimes recovery can take up to 10 days. Rarely, Campylobacter infection results in long-term consequences. Some people develop arthritis. Others may develop a rare disease called Guillain-Barre syndrome that affects the nerves of the body beginning several weeks after the diarrheal illness. This occurs when a person's immune system is "triggered" to attack the body's own nerves resulting in paralysis that lasts several weeks and usually requires intensive care. It is estimated that approximately one in every 1,000 reported Campylobacter illnesses leads to Guillain-Barre syndrome. As many as 40% of Guillain-Barre syndrome cases in this country may be triggered by campylobacteriosis.

Who is at Risk?

Campylobacter is one of the most common causes of diarrheal illness in the United States. The organism is isolated from infants and young adults more frequently than from persons in other age groups and from males more frequently than females. Although Campylobacter does not commonly cause death, it has been estimated that approximately 124 persons with Campylobacter infections die each year.

What Do Consumers Need To Do? 

The FDA recommends that consumers only drink pasteurized milk, and those who may have raw milk produced by Tucker Adkins Dairy should dispose of that product.

What Does the Product Look Like?

The raw milk associated with the illness was in one-gallon containers and was distributed in North Carolina by a courier. It is unknown whether the raw milk may have been distributed in other states.

Where is it Distributed?

Raw milk is sometimes distributed in North Carolina via independent or informal "milk clubs," though it may be distributed through other means as well.  The cases in this investigation report receiving raw milk twice a month from a courier who delivered the milk from South Carolina.  While it is believed the full distribution by this courier is limited, this information is not fully understood at this time.

What is Being Done about the Problem?

FDA is investigating the problem in collaboration with the North Carolina Division of Public Health and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. The investigation is ongoing. The FDA is also working with state authorities to take appropriate action to address any product that may be remaining on the market.

Who Should be Contacted?

Consumers with questions about dairy safety should contact 1-800-SAFEFOOD.  


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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