Health Dept. says 2 N.J. residents ill from Pa. raw milk

TRENTON – Just a few weeks after a bill allowing the sale of raw milk in New Jersey advanced out of one committee, the state this morning issued a warning of the health risks of consuming raw milk after identifying two illnesses it said are related to such consumption.

The Department of Health and Senior Services said there are two N.J. residents ill in connection to a major outbreak linked to raw milk from a Pennsylvania farm.

The report comes on the heels of a bill that drew strong support as well as opposition but eventually cleared the Assembly Agriculture Committee earlier this month that would permit state dairy farmers to sell raw milk.

According to the Health Department today, 78 people in several states have become ill with campylobacteriosis, a gastrointestinal illness, from the consumption of raw milk contaminated with bacteria.

“Raw milk can contain a number of bacteria that can cause life-threatening illness, especially in those with compromised immune systems,” said Health and Senior Services Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd. “Since consumers cannot tell if milk is contaminated by smelling or tasting it, residents should avoid consuming raw milk because of health risks associated with it.”

A 27-year-old male from Burlington County and a 3-year-old male from Gloucester County both got ill after consuming raw milk from the Family Cow Dairy in Pennsylvania, according to the N.J. Health Department.

The source of this outbreak, Family Cow Dairy, has since been permitted by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to resume bottling, New Jersey health officials reported.

It is important to note that this outbreak occurred despite the fact that Family Cow Dairy is licensed, inspected, and operating in compliance with Pennsylvania laws, the N.J. Health Department said. 

“Most people who become ill with campylobacteriosis get diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever within two to five days after exposure to the organism,” said Health and Senior Services Deputy Commissioner Dr. Arturo Brito. “The diarrhea may be bloody and can be accompanied by nausea and vomiting.  Residents that have consumed raw milk and have symptoms should contact their physician.” 

According to the Health Department, this illness typically lasts one week. Some infected people do not have any symptoms.  In those with compromised immune systems, Campylobacter occasionally spreads to the bloodstream and causes a life-threatening infection.  Long-term complications include contracting Guillain Barre Syndrome, which may result in paralysis that lasts several weeks and usually requires intensive care, according to the Health Department.

Previous coverage:

Ag committee releases raw milk bill

  Health Dept. says 2 N.J. residents ill from Pa. raw milk