Chambersburg-area farm cleared to resume milk production

Raw milk from farm linked to illness in 43 people

February 06, 2012|By JENNIFER FITCH |
  • Maryland health officials found Campylobacter jejuni bacteria in two unopened samples of raw milk produced at The Family Cow farm in Chambersburg, Pa.
Associated Press

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — The state on Monday cleared a Chambersburg-area farm for milk production, while the number of people sickened in the past several weeks by raw milk produced at the farm continued to rise.
The number of confirmed cases reached 43 as of 4 p.m. Monday, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

The illness comes from a bacteria, Campylobacter jejuni. It was found when Maryland health officials tested two unopened samples purchased from the Family Cow farm in Chambersburg.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture did not release the results of its own testing. However, the agriculture department did release a statement through its spokeswoman at 5 p.m. Monday.

“The Family Cow has passed a final inspection by the Department of Agriculture. The dairy may resume production and bottling of raw milk,” Samantha Elliott Krepps wrote in an email.

An inspection was conducted Monday afternoon, she wrote.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health said laboratories have confirmed 36 cases in Pennsylvania, four in Maryland, two in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia and one in New Jersey. Of the Pennsylvania cases, 18 involved residents of Franklin County.

About half of those sickened are younger than 18, according to a health department news release issued Friday.

Children are more susceptible to falling ill with digestive issues because of the bacteria, Martin Bucknavage, food safety expert for the Penn State Cooperative Extension, said in an interview Thursday.

On the Family Cow website, farmer Edwin Shank wrote about changes made at the farm that distributes unpasteurized milk.

A new hot-water system will make the water used for washing the milk tank, milking system and bottler about 180 degrees or hotter, he wrote.

Also, a new monitoring system will send alerts to the farmer’s smartphone if a control point, such as the water system, experiences problems. The farm is developing its own laboratory.

“We will test every lot of milk we bottle and hold it till the test show (sic) that it is clear to go,” Shank wrote.

The Family Cow farm sells raw milk at its farm store and at drop-offs, grocery stores and markets around Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, the Lehigh Valley and southcentral Pennsylvania. It voluntarily stopped selling milk during the investigation.

Thirty states, including Pennsylvania, allow raw milk sales, according to the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture.

Sales of raw milk are prohibited in Maryland.

In Pennsylvania, 153 facilities hold raw milk permits from the state agriculture department, Elliott Krepps said.

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