E-coli from Minnesota raw milk farm?

David E. Gumpert of the Complete Patient blog reports:

Google the terms “Hartmann Farm, Gibbon, MN” and you’ll get a good five pages of lawyer and media sites writing that three of four people have become ill from E.coli 0157:H7 in raw milk sold by the dairy. Nearly all the articles are based on an announcement by the Minnesota Department of Health that the illnesses have been “traced to raw milk” from Hartmann Farm, citing as evidence not only that they drank raw milk, but have the same genetic versions of the E.coli 0157:H7.

The lawyers are re-purposing the announcement because they are elbowing each other to be first in line when the families of those who became ill possibly select a product liability lawyer to seek damages. The media are pouncing on the announcement as evidence that the public health community is correct that raw milk is inherently unsafe.

No one seems to have asked the dairy owner his version of what happened. I spoke with the owner, Michael Hartmann, earlier today, and he tells a somewhat different tale. He says he’s been making raw milk available for the last ten years, and has never had a hint of illness. (He pasteurizes his dairy’s skim milk.) He contests the publicized version of events on two counts:

1. The public health authorities apparently haven’t found the E.coli in his dairy’s milk or anywhere else that directly connects the dairy. As a result, his dairy was raided yesterday by sheriffs deputies followed by two Minnesota Department of Agriculture agents and two Department of Health investigators. They came with a search warrant, and spent six-and-a-half hours searching his dairy and taking manure samples from his forty Dutch Belted cows, along with pigs and sheep. Clearly, the authorities were on the prowl for evidence of E.coli 0157:H7, to make a connection with the E.coli found in individuals who became ill–a connection they apparently haven’t yet definitely made.

2. He says he’s heard from the parents of two children who became ill–including one who has hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS)–and both told him that it was only the adults who drank raw milk, that the children hadn’t been drinking it, and thus, as far as the parents were concerned, the children hadn’t gotten sick from the milk….”

Read the whole thing here on the Complete Patient blog.

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