Utah health officials identify source of raw milk linked to 14 people getting sick

A West Jordan dairy was found to be the source of the harmful bacteria Campylobacter.

(U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) A microscopic view of the Campylobacter jejuni bacteria. Officials in Utah reported on Oct. 25, 2023, that 14 people were sickened by this bacteria — all cases traced to a raw-milk dairy in West Jordan.

Utah officials say they have identified the source of raw milk that has been linked to a cluster of 14 cases of illness.

The Utah Department of Health and Human Services and the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food said, in a news release issued Wednesday, that they have determined that the bacteria that sickened 14 people came from Utah Natural Meat and Milk, a dairy operating in West Jordan.

At least 12 of the people reported drinking raw milk purchased at the dairy before they started exhibiting symptoms of Campylobacter infection, which can cause diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, headache, nausea and vomiting, the release said.

The bacteria found in the raw milk from the dairy is the same genetic Campylobacter strain that infected the 14 people, the release said.

Utah Natural Meat and Milk’s license to sell raw cow’s milk has been suspended pending further testing, the release said. The agencies said that officials from the company are cooperating with the investigation and working to address any issues that led to the bacteria contaminating the milk.

No new cases of campylobacteriosis matching the outbreak strain have been identified since the company’s license was suspended about a month ago, the release said.

The dairy is still open and selling other products, the release said.

Public health officials advise Utahns to only consume dairy products that have been pasteurized, which means the product has been heated to a specific temperature to eliminate disease-causing bacteria.

“Bacterial contamination of raw milk can happen even when dairy workers follow hygienic practices,” said Delaney Moore, an epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health and Human Services. “The only way to make sure raw milk is free from harmful bacteria is to pasteurize it.”

People who choose to consume raw milk or raw dairy products should do the following to help lower the chance of illness:

• Heat raw milk to 165 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 15 seconds (and then cool it) before consuming.

• Keep raw milk and raw milk products refrigerated at or below 40 F, and do not let raw milk sit out at room temperature.