Illnesses possibly linked to raw milk

Montgomery County, Pa. - September 16, 2008 But Pennsylvania state health officials believe there could be problems with the unpasteurized milk at Hendricks Farms.

They said nine people have gotten sick with campylobacter and there may be dozens more.

Of the confirmed cases, three are in Montgomery County, four are in Bucks County and at least two in surrounding states.

"They've all been linked to drinking raw milk from a farm in Montgomery County," said Dr. Joseph DiMino of the Montgomery County Health Department.

But owner of that farm, Trent Hendricks, said they test their products and equipment weekly. He said the latest tests were done at the same time the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture was there.

"Our tests came back this morning and we are negative for all pathogens," Hendricks said. To this date we have not had any pathogens positive in our products ever."

But the official word has to come from the Department of Agriculture. It's results are still pending. Campylobacter can cause severe stomach cramps, nausea, pain and bloody diarrhea.

"It's the very young and the older folks that will have trouble, the ones with compromised immune systems," said Dr. DiMino.

Hendricks said he wishes all who got sick a speedy recovery, but believes the government was too quick to blame his farm and the raw milk. He believes, of the people sick, there may be another common link. Hendricks also says his farm will be exonerated.

The Pennsylvania Dept. of Health released this statement:

"Based on science, the Pennsylvania Dept. of Health advises consumers that raw milk is an inherently unsafe produce regardless of how it is produced. While standard hygiene and production practices can reduce the risk from consuming raw milk, they simply cannot eliminate it. Therefore, the department believes it's necessary to warn consumers about the risks associated with raw milk, and to urge all persons particularly these with immune disorders, pregnant women, and young children to avoid consuming this product in the interest of protecting the public's health."

Trent Hendricks calls raw milk a safe, healthy food if consumers choose to drink it. He said it is what his family drinks and, in the seven years his farm has been open, he has never had a problem.

Full results from the Dept. of Agriculture are expected Wednesday. Sales of raw milk are illegal in New Jersey and Delaware.

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