Dozens Sickened by Raw Milk from Weber County Dairy

Aug 26, 2014

Utah public health officials are investigating a cluster of illness associated with the consumption of raw or unpasteurized milk.  Officials from the Utah Department of Health say 45 cases of Campylobacter infection have been reported in Northern Utah, Idaho, and California. All cases are linked to the consumption of raw milk or cream purchased at Ropelato Dairy in Weber County. 

Symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, and vomiting. Rebecca Ward, an educator for the state health department, says this is one of the largest clusters in Utah she’s seen in many years, but illness caused by raw milk is fairly common.

“It is legal in Utah for certain stores and dairies to sell raw milk products, but just be aware that if you do, it can cause serious illness.  People that have greater risk such as pregnant women, young children, really we’re encouraging them not to drink these particular types of products, because there is such a great possibility of contamination,” Ward says.

Utah Department of Agriculture and Food spokesman Larry Lewis says the agency has suspended the license of Ropelato Dairy and is working with the owner to determine the source of the problem. He says there are many points in the process where dangerous bacteria could be introduced, including Campylobacter, Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli.

“We have suspended the license of other dairies in the past. This is not an uncommon event that we’re talking about today,” Lewis says.

Some are concerned that such outbreaks will make the state decide to outlaw raw milk.

Real Foods Market customers Kathleen King and John Turner say they will continue to drink raw milk despite illness outbreaks.
Real Foods Market customers Kathleen King and John Turner say they will continue to drink raw milk despite illness outbreaks.
Credit Andrea Smardon / KUER

“I think that we should be able to make the choice to drink raw milk,” says Kathleen King, a personal trainer . She’s eating lunch at Real Foods Market, a shop and café in Salt Lake City that sells raw milk from their farm in Redmond. King has had bad reactions to conventional pasteurized, homogenized milk, but says she doesn’t have that problem with raw milk.

“I just love it! It’s delicious,” King says. “It helps you digest all your food better, and the health benefits outweigh any of the risk.”

Larry Lewis says The Utah Department of Agriculture will re-instate Ropelato Dairy’s license as soon as they can see there is a consistent supply of safe milk.