The Pennsylvania departments of Health and Agriculture and the Allegheny County Health Department are advising the public of the possible health risks associated with products, specifically glass-bottled milk, from Brunton Dairy in Aliquippa, Beaver County.
Since June 15, five individuals – three young children and two older adults – developed diarrhea and other symptoms caused by bacteria called Yersinia enterocolitica. All five people drank and became ill from pasteurized milk in glass bottles from the same local dairy.
“Until we can complete our investigation, we are recommending, in the interest of public health, that any glass-bottled milk from the dairy at homes or businesses be discarded or returned to the dairy, and that residents take precaution with other dairy products from Brunton Dairy,” said Secretary of Health Dr. Eli Avila.
The shelf life of the pasteurized milk is at least 15 days and much longer for ice cream. This warning does not extend to other types of food purchased from or distributed by the farm, including cheese, which is made elsewhere.
The departments are working together to investigate gastrointestinal infections in Beaver and Allegheny counties. Illness onsets range from June 15 through July 17. Other persons in the same households also experienced a similar illness, but the cause of their illness was not confirmed.
The dairy is cooperating fully with the investigation and voluntarily stopped producing milk using its on-site pasteurization facility.
Brunton Dairy is certified by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to pasteurize milk at the farm. The dairy produces buttermilk, regular, fat-free, reduced-fat, cream, and chocolate- and strawberry-flavored milk, as well as ice cream. The dairy makes home delivery to households in Western Pennsylvania and sells milk and ice cream at retail establishments. The public may also buy products on the farm, and the milk can be purchased for use by restaurants.
Yersinia enterocolitica bacteria causes diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting and can sometimes enter the bloodstream and affect other organs. Onset of illness usually occurs four to six days after exposure, but can be as short as one day or as long as two weeks. The bacteria can cause severe infections and the illness can mimic appendicitis and sometimes leads to unnecessary surgery.
Yersinia is a rarely reported cause of foodborne illness in Pennsylvania, with an average of 22 cases annually statewide and an average of six cases annually in the southwestern region of the state, including Allegheny County. Many hospital laboratories do not routinely look for Yersinia in samples; therefore, Yersinia infections may be missed unless proper laboratory technique is used.
Any person who consumed a product from Brunton Dairy and has symptoms of diarrhea is recommended to contact their health care provider to assure appropriate specimens are collected and treatment is administered, as Yersinia infections can be treated with antibiotics.
Ill individuals, health care providers, or laboratories can contact the Pennsylvania Department of Health at 1-877-PA-HEALTH (1-877-724-3258) or the Allegheny County Health Department at 412-687-ACHD (2243).