Last week, Minnesota Department of Health announced an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to raw milk produced at the Hartmann Dairy in Gibbon, Minnesota. At least 5 people from across the state with confirmed E. coli O157:H7 infections had reported recent consumption of raw milk from Hartmann Dairy. The DNA from the E. coli positive stool samples indicated a common source as well. Together, these circumstances provided already strong epidemiological evidence that the dairy’s milk was the source of infection.
Today, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) confirmed that earlier conclusions about the source of this outbreak were, in fact, correct. In a press release, the MDA states as follows:
This strong epidemiological link is now reinforced by the laboratory confirmation that the specific strain of E. coli O157:H7 found in the ill patients has also been found in multiple animals and at multiple sites on the Hartmann farm. This strain of E. coli has not previously been found in Minnesota. Furthermore, laboratory tests confirmed that cheese samples collected last week from the farm contained another form of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, demonstrating that an ongoing pathway of contamination existed on the farm.
The test results underscore the dangers of consuming milk that has not been pasteurized to eliminate E. coli and other potentially deadly bacteria. Leading public health organizations such as the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics all advocate pasteurization as a standard public health practice.
“Raw milk presents a serious health risk,” said Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Sanne Magnan. “This risk isn’t a matter of personal opinion; it’s an established scientific fact. Drinking raw milk or eating products made from raw milk can expose consumers to a variety of organisms that can result in anything from a few days of diarrhea to kidney failure and death. Raw milk is especially dangerous for children, whose immune systems can’t fight off infection as well as healthy adults.”
In addition to the cases linked to the Hartmann farm, MDH is investigating several other illnesses with a connection to products from the farm. MDA has embargoed dairy products on the Hartmann farm, prohibiting movement or release of the products off the farm.