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Listeria Found in Big Brook Farm Raw Milk Samples. A Snapshot into How Raw Milk is Monitored.

Posted in Outbreaks & Recalls,Raw Milk on March 21, 2024

Big Brook Farm raw milk samples tested positive for the deadly bacteria, Listeria monocytogenes. The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets discovered Listeria monocytogenes (commonly referred to as Listeria) during routine sampling activities on March 13, 2024.

The announcement is a great snapshot into how raw milk is monitored.

Does it catch every bug every time? Probably not, but it is a good indicator of a big problem.

Big Brook Farm Raw Milk Alert

Following routine testing by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, Commissioner Richard A. Ball issued a raw milk alert for unpasteurized raw milk from Garrie A. Smith dba Big Brook Farm.

The farm is located in Oeinda County New York at 6063 Weaver Road.

Here’s What We Know

An inspector from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets collected a sample from Big Brook Farm.

On March 13, 2024, the producer was notified of a preliminary positive test result, meaning that the initial broad screening showed potential contamination with harmful Listeria bacteria.

When this happens, more specialized tests are run on the milk sample, usually using genetic analysis, to confirm that the bacteria they saw was for sure Listeria monocytogenes. This data is also added to a database so that any patient samples that match this specific strain can be linked to the product.

This testing was completed on March 18, 2024, and confirmed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in the raw milk sample.

“The Department recommends that any consumers who purchased raw milk from Garrie A. Smith dba Big Brook Farm immediately dispose of it and call the farm at 315-266-7254”

So far there have been no reports of illness associated with this product. However, this result is serious in that the milk sample obtained was from raw milk.

What is Raw Milk?

Raw milk is milk that is not pasteurized. Pasteurization provides a level of protection to the consumer in that it should be free of harmful germs.

The pasteurization process heats the milk to a specific temperature for a specific amount of time that has deemed effective at killing dangerous pathogens.

This pasteurization process kills bacteria responsible for many preventable illnesses and diseases such as:

  • Listeriosis (the illness associated with Listeria infection)
  • Salmonellosis (the illness associated with Salmonella infection)
  • Typhoid fever (the illness associated with Salmonella typhi bacteria)
  • Campylobacteriosis (the illness associated with Campylobacter infection)
  • Brucellosis (the illness associated with Brucella infection)
  • Tuberculosis (the illness associated with Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection)
  • Diptheria (the illness associated with Cornyebacterium diphtheriae infection)

Milk pasteurization is internationally recognized as an effected means of preventing foodborne illness outbreaks, including listeriosis.

Is Raw Milk Regulated?

Raw milk regulations and monitoring activities vary from state to state. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) picks up the reins when things go bad and people become sick, but for the most part these activities are left to the states to decide.

Other than prohibiting raw milk sales across state lines, the United States federal government leaves the details to the states. Ensuring raw milk stays within the state it is produced helps to prevent loopholes and missed issues associated with the potentially hazardous product.

Big Brook Farm is Under New York State Jurisdiction

Big Brook Farm, the dairy indicated in the alert, is in New York State. Therefore, this facility is monitored by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Inspection Program.

Not all dairy farms and farmers must obtain a license. This rules out those with a small setup.

Exemption criteria includes:

  • Handling less than 3,000 pounds of milk per month, and
  • deliver their own milk from the farm to the plant, or
  • distribute packaged fluid milk that is processed by another plant operator, or
  • operate a plant using milk produced on their own farm (in which case another set of rules applies).

This inspection program lays out the requirements for both pasteurized and raw milk farms. This entails milk testing and inspection schedules.

What are the Testing Requirements Under New York State Jurisdiction?

Both the milk and the water supply on the farm must be tested at specific intervals to maintain compliance.

Under normal circumstances, with all sampling activities returning negative, The State of New York requires raw milk producers to have sampling performed every month. For those who pasteurize, this interval is extended to every six months.

If a sample is found positive, additional retesting is performed at smaller intervals until all subsequent samples are cleared.

Certain other aspects of the milk such as fat, total solids, and others are tested monthly or quarterly depending on the product.

Farm water is also inspected every three years.

Is It a Perfect System?

Is this program and others like it in states across the country a perfect system?

No. Sometimes contaminated milk falls through the cracks.

Every product would have to be sampled and tested to ensure near perfectly safe raw milk.

Even if the resources were available to do so, it still may not be sufficient. Testing only captures a small sample and can only pick up a certain number of bacteria.

For example, if the sample was taken from a large batch, and that small sample didn’t contain the harmful bacteria, it could still be floating around in other parts of the batch.

Then, if the sample taken from a large batch contains harmful bacteria, but it only contains a few microorganisms, the test will likely show negative results. However, the existing bacteria in the batch can continue to grow into infectious numbers before it makes its way to the consumer.

Your best bet is to go with the tested and safer pasteurized milk option. Listeria monocytogenes, the bacteria found in Big Brook Farm raw milk samples, is not a germ you want to meet.

What is Listeria?

Listeria monocytogenes is the bacteria responsible for the illness, listeriosis. It causes a serious infection often linked to contaminated foods.

The CDC estimates about 1,600 people become sick with listeriosis each year. About 260 of those die from the illness.

Anyone can become infected with Listeria, however, most healthy people do not become seriously ill. There are certain groups, however, that are more at risk of becoming sick or experiencing more severe illness.

High-risk groups include:

  • The elderly aged 65 or older
  • Pregnant people and their newborns
  • Those with a weakened immune system

Listeriosis Symptoms Vary Depending on Where the Infection Is In the Body and Whether or Not the Person is Pregnant

There are two types of Listeria illness symptoms. Intestinal and invasive.

Intestinal Illness

Intestinal illness is the most common form of listeriosis. The infection is limited to the digestive system.

It often involves vomiting and diarrhea that often begins within 24 hours of consuming contaminated food and lasts around 1 to 3 days.

Most people with this type of listeriosis don’t need antibiotic treatment and generally treat symptoms, keeping hydrated until the illness passes. Those in the higher risk groups may need medical treatment and antibiotics to recover.

Intestinal listeriosis may evolve to a more invasive illness.

Invasive Illness

Invasive illness occurs when Listeria bacteria move beyond the digestive system and into other parts of the body. In this case, listeriosis affects pregnant and non-pregnant people differently. In both categories, symptoms often begin about 2 weeks after consuming the contaminated food.

Pregnant People

Pregnant people generally experience milder personal symptoms such as fever, fatigue, and muscle aches. The greater risk is associated with the unborn child. Listeriosis during pregnancy can lead to still birth, premature delivery, miscarriage, or life-threatening infection in the newborn.

Non-pregnant People

People who are not pregnant often experience symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions. Fever and muscle aches are also possible symptoms. This type of illness can be serious and life-threatening. 1 in 20 non-pregnant people with invasive listeriosis will die from their illness.

Most people with invasive listeriosis require medical treatment and often need hospitalization.

If You Have Become Sick Big Brook Farm Raw Milk, Reporting Your Illness Can Save Lives

Even if you are not very sick, if you have listeriosis symptoms after consuming Big Brook Farm Raw Milk, reporting your illness can save lives. Your immune system may be healthy enough to fight off the infection. Others may not be so lucky.

When two or more people become sick with the same illness linked to the same food, it is classified as a foodborne outbreak. This status helps get the word out for others and helps remove potentially harmful products from the marketplace.

You may be sick, but the pregnant person down the street may lose her baby. Or your elderly neighbor may die from the illness. Or the kid down the street may suffer brain or kidney damage.

Reporting foodborne illness saves lives.

Have You Become Seriously Ill from Big Brook Farm Raw Milk?

If you have become seriously ill from consuming Big Brook Farm raw milk, you may have a legal case.

The Lange Law Firm, PLLC has helped many families with cases just like yours help hold accountable those responsible for foodborne illness. An experienced Listeria lawyer can help navigate you through the legal process.

Call (833) 330-3663 or submit your information on the online submission form for a free consultation.

By: Heather Van Tassell (contributing writer, non-lawyer)