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Raw Milk Warning in New York

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Listeria concerns have prompted New York State health officials to warn consumers not to drink raw milk from Breese Hollow Dairy in Hoosick Falls, NY.  According to the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets, the dairy has suspended production until testing proves its milk is free of listeria and other pathogens.

Listeria contaminated foods may cause listeriosis, a disease that usually causes mild flu-like symptoms in healthy individuals; however in immune-compromised individuals, meningitis and blood poisoning can occur.  Pregnant women are also considered a high-risk group, as listeriosis can also result in stillbirths.

Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized.  According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), raw milk or raw milk products were implicated in 45 outbreaks that resulted in over 1,000 illnesses and two deaths in the United States during 1998-2005.    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.  It is illegal to sell raw milk for human consumption in 22 states.  The other states – including New  York – allow raw milk sales within their borders; the Food & Drug Administration bans sales across state lines.

According to the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets, a  routine sample of the milk at Breese Hollow, taken by an inspector from the Division of Milk Control and Dairy Services on May 26, 2009, was subsequently tested by the Department’s Food Laboratory and discovered to be contaminated with listeria monocytogenes.  On May 29, 2009, the producer was notified of a preliminary positive test result and volunteered to suspend raw milk sales until the sample results were confirmed.  Test results were confirmed on June 3, 2009 and the producer is prohibited from selling raw milk until subsequent sampling indicates that the product is free of pathogens.

In New York, producers who sell raw milk to consumers must have a permit to do so from the Department, must sell directly to consumers on the farm where the milk is produced and must post a notice at the point of sale indicating that raw milk does not provide the protection of pasteurization. Farms with permits to sell raw milk are inspected by the Department monthly.

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