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Salmonella outbreak linked to raw milk sold in Orem and Heber

SHARE Salmonella outbreak linked to raw milk sold in Orem and Heber

PROVO — A recent outbreak of salmonella has been linked to unpasteurized milk that was sold in Orem and Heber City.

But new milk produced by the same company has tested clean for the bacteria, and the milk is back on store shelves after a two-week absence, according to health and agriculture officials.

Still, they say, drinking raw milk poses health risks.

Six people, ages 2 to 56, were diagnosed with a specific type of salmonella called Newport in April, said Utah County Health Department spokesman Lance Madigan. Four of the cases were in Utah County, with one each in Salt Lake and Wasatch counties. When investigators went through their where-have-you-been, what-have-you-eaten studies, they found all six had consumed raw milk bought from Real Foods stores in Orem and Heber City. That led them to Redmond Farms in Sevier County, where the raw milk was produced, he said.

Real Foods and Redmond stopped selling the unpasteurized milk while the investigation was conducted. And officials found salmonella in several of the milk samples it tested that were dated between April 5 and 22.

The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food is still trying to determine how the milk was contaminated with salmonella.

Advocates of raw milk say pasteurizing milk strips out nutrients. And some parents say their lactose-intolerant children do just fine with raw milk. Health officials counter that the downside is a potential for illness that outweighs any perceived benefits. Pasteurization is designed to kill bacteria.

"The public health view is that there is no such thing as safe unpasteurized milk," said Madigan. "It comes straight from the cow and is loaded with bacteria. Some of that will be just fine, and sometimes there will be something like salmonella, E. coli or listeria."

Salmonella can hit especially hard with young children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, he said. Symptoms include fever, headache, diarrhea, vomiting and nausea. At least one case in the outbreak was quite severe, Madigan noted.

He added that the investigators enjoyed great cooperation from both Redmond and Real Foods.

e-mail: lois@desnews.com