More Illnesses Tied to Raw Milk from MN Farm

Seven cases of people becoming ill after consuming raw dairy products have recently been discovered-and evidence indicates that the milk was produced at the same farm implicated earlier this year in an E. Coli outbreak.

Minnesota health officials announced Thursday that seven new cases of people becoming ill after consuming raw milk have been linked to products from the Hartmann Dairy Farm in Gibbon.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) announced in May that three cases of E. coli-related illnesses were traced to raw milk produced by the Hartmann farm. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) ordered Michael Hartmann to halt the sale of milk until he dealt with unsanitary conditions on his farm and complied with state laws.

Most raw milk sales are prohibited under Minnesota laws, but in some cases it is legal to purchase raw milk directly at the farm where it is produced.

Three of the seven recently reported illnesses were caused by the bacteria Campylobacter jejuni, and four came from the parasite Cryptosporidium parvum. Both cause diarrhea, abdominal pain, and other side effects. Campylobacter infection can also lead to arthritis and Guillain BarrŽ syndrome-which is characterized by sudden paralysis.

The individuals acknowledged that they had consumed raw milk-and some named the Hartmann farm as the source. As further evidence, laboratory tests discovered that the bacteria and parasites found in those who recently became ill were “genetically identical” to those found in samples taken from the Hartmann farm earlier this year, according to the MDH.

“It is not clear how the seven new ill people acquired the product,” the MDH said.

“We're concerned that people are continuing to get sick after consuming products from this farm,” Kirk Smith, supervisor of the MDH foodborne diseases unit, said in a statement. “We're also concerned that some people who became ill were given the Hartmann dairy product by friends or neighbors who did not tell them the source.”

In addition to those traced to the Hartmann farm, the MDH has discovered 47 other cases this year in which people became ill after drinking raw milk.

“While we are very concerned about the ongoing illnesses associated with this one farm, this isn't just about one farm selling raw milk and making people sick,” Smith said. “This also is about the inherent risk of any raw milk.”

The MDH and the MDA warn against consuming raw milk. Still, the consumption of raw milk remains a controversial topic, as many people contend that it contains health benefits that aren't available in pasteurized milk.