According to Utah Department of Health (UDOH) official Becky Ward, there are now 45 victims in a Campylobacter outbreak linked to raw milk and raw cream purchased from the Ropelato Dairy in Weber County, Utah – but as the number grows, so too does the distribution, with illnesses now piling up in neighboring counties, including Cache, Davis, Morgan, Salt Lake, and Utah counties, and two victims have now been identified in California and Idaho. The first case surfaced back in early May, on the 9th, and the most recent was confirmed on July 21st. The UDOH undertook an extensive investigation including trace-back interviews attempting to determine the source of the outbreak. But the definitive breakthrough came in early August when the Utah Department of Agriculture (UDA) conducted several tests that were positive for the outbreak strain of Campylobacter. Following the positive test results, on August 4th, the UDA suspended Ropelato Dairy’s license to sell raw milk.
Since then the Ropelato Dairy has closed up shop and is working to determine how the bacteria entered its milk and cream. According to one UDA spokesperson, Larry Lewis, the Ropelato Dairy is cooperating with UDA inspectors, noting “inspectors have repeatedly visited the dairy, reviewing safety procedures, working with the owner to determine the source of the problem and helping devise corrective actions.” Lewis also confirmed that Ropelato Dairy will be allowed to recommence selling its products, including raw milk and raw cream, once a series of tests determine that there is no further danger.
At least one victim was only 2 years old, while the oldest on record is 74. The very young and elderly are among the most susceptible to long-term complications and, in rare cases, even death from Campylobacteriosis.
UDOH Warns Contaminated Raw Milk Indistinguishable from Uncontaminated Raw Milk, Warning Consumers to Be Wary
The UDOH warns that contaminated raw milk and contaminated raw cream look and smell the same as uncontaminated product, but are nevertheless extremely dangerous. Campylobacteriosis illness can last for days or weeks, depending on the victim, causing diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, and related dehydration. These can become serious in those with a compromised immune system, including those with recent organ transplants, the young and the elderly, pregnant women, and in others with immune disorders.
Because raw milk can be easily contaminated, and there is no easy way to screen safe product from dangerous product, in many states the sale of raw milk and raw cream is prohibited or highly restrained. In Utah, officials allow for its sale, but warn consumers of the inherent risk of consuming a non-pasteurized product. Fecal matter can easily enter the milk during milking and when storage facilities are not maintained in the proper manner. Pasteurization is the recommended method to secure safe drinking milk.
Four Years Ago, Ropelato at Center of Different Campylobacter Outbreak
As recently as 2010 there was an outbreak of Campylobacter in Weber, Davis, and Cache counties that was also linked to Ropelato Dairy. At that time, laboratory tests showed high levels of fecal matter in the raw milk. And these two Ropelato Dairy outbreaks are only two of at least 14 recorded outbreaks of Campylobacter in Utah in the last five years, in which a total of at least 200 victims have been identified. The actual number of victims is likely much higher.
In other outbreaks linked to raw milk, salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli have been identified – Campylobacter lawyer Ron Simon has represented many victims in these raw milk outbreaks, explaining “when a company sells its product, pasteurized or not, there is an implicit warranty that the milk will be safe to drink. When this is not the case, the company is liable for any injury to the consumer.” For more information, feel free to call the food poisoning attorneys at Ron Simon & Associates.