Sick From Raw Milk

This is a post I hoped I’d never have to write. And honestly, I will admit that I considered not writing it. But I know that I have to.

I owe it to you, after all I’ve written on this subject, to be completely honest about what has happened, so that you can make an informed decision for your family, if raw milk is an issue for you at all.

Last week 4 members of our family came down with what we thought at first was an intestinal virus. There are a lot of viruses going around in our area, and I didn’t even consider any type of food poisoning . . . at first.

However, as it lingered, and I got sicker and sicker, I began to wonder. I had just published a post about our food choices and mentioned that I rarely get sick and when I do it is mild. This is true. I have never been so sick from a virus, and I could not shake this one. I began to wonder about our milk.

Then I got the email.

I was lying on the couch, weak and drowsy from days of my body expelling every morsel that I ate or drank, when the email from our raw milk provider arrived on my iPhone. Other customers were reporting similar illnesses in their homes, and many were tracking it to those who drank the raw milk. One customer had even tested positive for campylobacter — a common cause of bacterial foodborne illness. In that email, the farmer explained that they were looking into the situation, but for the time being, we should discontinue drinking their milk.

A sick, sinking feeling started in my stomach and radiated out to the tips of my fingers and toes.

I knew this is what had happened to my family. I JUST KNEW.

The farmer was skeptical that it was his milk, as his entire family was fine, but as the days went on, a test came back indicating that one particular batch of milk with a certain expiration date (the same date on my carton of milk) did indeed carry the campylobacter bacteria.

Meanwhile, I had been to my doctor and tested positive for the same. It was official.

My family had been sickened from drinking raw milk.

I always knew that there was a remote possibility of getting sick from raw milk, but I truly believed that if the farmer was reliable and diligent about following the proper protocol, that it was a very small chance, and that the benefits of drinking the raw milk far outweighed any risk. I was also led to believe that if there IS “bad bacteria” in the milk, the “good bacteria” should be able to suppress it, and people with strong immune systems should be able to fight it.

And in fact, I do believe this is what happened with us. Yes, we got sick, but we drank that entire gallon of milk. I think our bodies did a fairly good job of fighting it. My kids bounced back fairly quickly. I suffered the worst of all of us, and my doctor suggested that is perhaps because I tend to have a weak gut already.

Even though we are firm believers in the benefits of raw milk, we were never completely at peace with our decision to drink it. My husband and I have discussed our milk choice at great lengths over the past few years. We have always been in agreement with one another, but have debated it amongst ourselves time and time again. We always came back to the reasoning, if people were getting sick from it, we would hear more about it, and the stories we hear about people getting sick from food are always industrial foods, not carefully produced real foods from small family farms.

Plus, it tastes SO GOOD and it makes my belly SO HAPPY and I have always suspected that it is drinking raw milk that has helped my son’s asthma symptoms disappear so dramatically.

Which is why, I have to admit, I am really sad about this latest turn of events. Not only do I feel a horrible weight of guilt for putting my children at risk when it is my sworn duty to protect them, but I will miss my raw milk terribly.

That’s right. We are no longer drinking raw milk.

Not everyone afflicted by the campylobacter incident will stop drinking raw milk. In fact, in the newsletter I received last night from the farm, a letter from a devoted family was reprinted that basically stated their support for the farm and for the drinking of raw milk. As they said to their doctor, when people are sickened by contaminated spinach and cantaloupe, they aren’t told to discontinue eating them. So why is raw milk such the villain, when it has so many benefits and incidences like this are extremely rare?

I don’t know. And maybe it is short-sighted of me to stop drinking raw milk because of this one unfortunate incident. The truth is, there is no safe food. There is always a risk.

But the raw milk decision is one that we’ve been waffling on from the first gallon we purchased till the last, and this was the final straw.

I’m sure some of you are thinking: What’s the big hairy deal with milk? Just drink the “regular” stuff like everyone else and be done with it!

I thought about this (I had plenty of time to mull it over while I lay on the couch last week, wasting away) and it comes down to this.

Raw milk is a live food. It contains a plethora of essential amino acids, enzymes, beneficial bacteria, vitamins and minerals that supposedly boost our immune systems and may even help cure diseases. You can live on raw milk alone (it has been well documented). It is a complete food.

Pasteurized milk is dead. In fact, once it’s been cooked (pasteurized) and shaken up (homogenized), even the local grass-fed organic milk I can buy is just another processed food.

So why I do I care, anyway? We eat plenty of processed foods, truth be told.

Well, aside from the fact that I cannot drink pasteurized milk without becoming immediately and violently ill (due to what I assume is lactose intolerance) and raw milk goes down so easy . . .

Set that aside, and it comes down to the fact that this is (was?) the one easy thing I could do to nourish my family.

If your family drinks milk the way we drink milk, AND WE DRINK MILK (upwards of 2 gallons a week), it is one thing I can buy that we all love that I feel is nourishing their bodies and protecting them from all the other junk they eat in a given day. There are lots of other things I can feed them that are nourishing and wholesome, but none as easy (or perhaps as tasty) as a glass of raw milk.

On the one hand, eating anything is a gamble. I have to believe that it’s a lot riskier for my kids to eat an occasional McDonalds Happy Meal than it is for them to drink raw milk every day of their lives.

And yet. We didn’t get sick from McDonalds. Or spinach. Or cantaloupe. We got sick from raw milk. So whether or not it makes logical sense, we have decided to stop drinking it. For now, anyway. (And yes, we still eat bagged spinach and cantaloupe. But we wash it REALLY REALLY well.) And I literally cringe and pray any time we give our kids fast food, which is a very rare occurrence.

We are lucky. It’s been two weeks since we came down with the symptoms of the campylobacter, and the kids are fine. In fact, they got over it fairly quickly — they were only down for 3 or 4 days. I suffered the worst, which is ironic because I drank the least of it. My kids drink milk like candy. I probably had one, MAYBE two cups out of the entire gallon. But I guess my temperamental gut had more difficulty expelling the bacteria than my kids’ healthy bodies did. But I’m on the mend and feeling better every day.

So why am I telling you all this? 

I admit, I was tempted to quietly move on with my life. But I am telling you because you deserve to know. One of the arguments I made to myself when justifying the remote risk of drinking raw milk was, if people were getting sick off of it, I would hear about it. RIGHT? I know so many people that drink raw milk and no one has ever mentioned getting sick from it. If I didn’t tell you this, after all the posts I’ve written extolling the virtues of raw milk, it would be dishonest.

Some of you drink raw milk. Most of you probably don’t. But if you do, you should know, that even if you have a farmer that you trust, you can still get sick. Maybe you will keep drinking it. Maybe I should too. I don’t know. It is not a right-or-wrong issue. Ultimately I believe that eating food in its simplest form is generally best practice, but these days that’s easier said than done.

Of all the awesome benefits that come along with our modern industrial society, keeping our food simple is not one of them. I can’t go out back and milk a cow and drink fresh, clean milk. If I could, this decision would be simple. Instead, I have to depend on a whole production team to maintain perfect standards of cleanliness to keep that delicate, live food safe. And I have to admit, my confidence in that system has been shattered.

That said, I do not harbor any resentment towards the farm or their family. They are good people trying their best to make available to their customers the same wholesome, nourishing foods that they produce and feed their own family. I knew there was a risk involved, and I took that risk knowingly. I take full responsibility.

The farm will continue to produce and sell raw milk. It is legal to do so in Pennsylvania, and they did nothing wrong. It was a mistake, one that they have agonized over, and hopefully one that will not be repeated.

As for my family? We will have a good source of local, organic, grass-fed, PASTEURIZED milk available that we will be buying (for now).

* * *

I welcome thoughtful and respectful comments, on either side of this issue. I view this blog like my living room. If you wouldn’t say it to your good friend while sipping tea in her living room, please don’t say it here. Rude comments will be deleted.

UPDATE 2/8/12
I’ve decided to close comments on this post. I believe that everything there is to say has been said, several times over. I appreciate the thought and concern that went into your comments, and I value each and every one.

Comments

  1. says

    My husband just started drinking raw milk a few weeks before this incident. We live in central PA about 40 minutes from that farm. This has been in the news every day. He actually didn’t buy that brand of raw milk though, but we have decided to not drink it anymore either. I never tasted it. I was on the fence and just couldn’t bring myself to drink it and we didn’t give any to the kids yet. Although, I might have eventually warmed up to the raw milk had this not happened.

    • says

      Unfortunately, this is exactly WHY it was in the news every day- so that people would be scared off from drinking it. It is RARE (obviously not impossible or unheard of) to get sick from real food products, raw milk products included. I will keep drinking my raw milk without thinking twice about it. It’s a healthful product and an isolated incident here and there does not discourage me from accessing nutrient-dense foods like raw milk.

  2. Susan says

    I’m just glad you figured it out and you are on your way to feeling better ! Food choices for our families are hard! Personally, I believe there was a reason for the milk pasteurization movement and this was one of many. But I do completely see your rationale for drinking raw milk. It will be interesting to see how your sons asthma does at this point.

  3. Stacey V says

    Thank you for sharing. I’ve only had raw milk from that particular farm once but have had it from the other local farm (in Telford) lots of times (even last week). Like you, I’ve always been unsure whether it’s the best thing to drink or not. This last gallon we bought, only my husband and I drank. I usually stick to buying milk from the other local farms, at least I know they don’t use hormones and it’s coming from just one farm and local.

  4. says

    Wow, I respect your honesty and appreciate that you shared this info and your decision. I’m a little confused, though, why you’re not drinking raw milk anymore. Putting aside the potential for another bacteria problem, it still sounds like a great choice. And like you said, no food is safe. Maybe I just don’t know enough about that particular bacteria–is it really dangerous?

    I love reading your blog, especially the food-related posts, as I mentioned previously. I learn so much!

    • says

      Like any bacteria, campylobacter CAN be very serious. Often it’s not, but there are no guarantees. It can cause longterm health problems and even death. I seriously doubt, as healthy as we are, and with the quality of the milk that we buy, that it WOULD be that harmful to us. But there is no way to know.

      I do think a strong case can be made for continuing to drink the raw milk. I can’t say I will never drink it again, but I don’t feel confident giving it to my kids. For now, I guess I’ve just been scared away. It’s more of an emotional reaction to my recent illness than an objective argument.

  5. says

    I know you’re really stood behind your decision to be able to buy and drink raw milk. I also know you’ve done a TON of research on that choice…and really? It’s completely your right to make any choice for your family you need and want to, so while I understand your need for complete candor, I also think that after this you shouldn’t worry about it again. Glad you’re feeling better now.

  6. says

    Glad you are feeling better. And kudos to you for being able to write this post. It’s never easy to write about the negatives, but maybe someone will be educated, and future problems will be avoided!

  7. Allison says

    Raw milk is illegal here but we have a farm that sells low-heat pasterized, non-homogenized milk. Because we did not have the option of raw milk I have neve truly considered it, but I feel that this milk is our best choice.

    • says

      Yes, that is definitely a great choice. We have that, but it is homogenized. I can get non-homogenized if I drive an hour to buy it. I might go at least once and see how we like it, and then beg my local whole food store to carry it! LOL

  8. DeAnn says

    I read about this on another blog and wondered if it might be the same farm you use in PA. I’m sad that this happened to your family and others and glad you guys are O.K. I understand and totally respect your decision. I would probably do the same thing. It’s wonderful that you have a great source of grass-fed pasteurized milk available. If you don’t mind me asking, what are you going to do about your son and his asthma symptoms. No dairy for him?

    • says

      He has never had a problem with dairy (at least not one that was diagnosed). I just felt like perhaps the switch to raw milk (and the sheer amount he drinks) might have contributed to the disappearance of his asthma symptoms. His allergist thinks he outgrew them. I suppose we’ll find out, won’t we? LOL.

      For now, we will just carry on, drinking the low-heat pasteurized milk I can get, and see how he does. I’m interested to see how things go.

  9. says

    I think it’s a (pardon the pun) gut reaction to stop consuming something that makes you so ill. While you may in the future feel differently I can totally understand your hesitation to continue drinking raw milk despite the benefits.

    Sometimes our choices aren’t based on hard evidence, just our feeling that we want to do what is right for our family and that’s ok.

    Glad you are on the mend, and that the kids bounced back so quickly.

  10. says

    I think my heart hurts for you a little reading this. After reading your posts, we had tried some raw milk here but it was so expensive and out of the way I never kept it up. It was REALLY good though. I’ll be interested to see how your bodies react to going back to pasteurized. I’m glad it was nothing more serious and encourage you to do whatever is right for your family. Like you said, there’s no right or wrong!

  11. says

    thanks for sharing this.

    raw milk sales directly to the consumer is illegal here in ohio, but i believe you can buy a share of a cow and get it that way. my husband and i have considered this as an option, but still not sure. we do have access to gently pasteurized, non-homogenized, grass-fed milk, and i think that’s the next best choice next to raw milk.

    i agree with you…eating any food is a risk. i think the most important thing is to be well-informed before making your decision about which foods you decide to consume. i suppose as a consumer in general, it’s important to be well-informed before making your decision.

    glad to hear that you and your family are on the mend. i appreciate the food information you share on your blog. it’s all very helpful.

    • says

      That’s awesome that you can get gently pasteurized, non-homogenized, grass-fed milk. I agree, it is the next best thing (or perhaps the best???) and I am glad that I have one that is similar. Unfortunately it is homogenized. Bleh.

  12. Sandi says

    Oh, Jo-Lynne! I’m so sorry you were sick. When I heard of this in the news you were the first thing I thought of and I hoped it hadn’t affected your family! I’m glad to hear that everyone is back on the mend at least.

  13. says

    Thanks for your candid post. For me, as a farmer’s wife and gardener, it comes down to the fact that food is inherently dirty and everything we eat carries a risk. When our produce is grown in the dirt and our food animals live on the ground on which they eliminate, how can it ever be completely safe? The practices farmers and food companies use were developed to minimize that risk, but no food production system (conventional, organic, confined, free-range, small, large) can eliminate it. We just tend to hear more about the larger ag companies when something gets through because of the scale and scope of their markets. Good for you for weighing the risks and rewards of your food choices and even more, good for you for sharing with us. I’m glad you are all feeling better!

    • says

      All very true, and you sum it up well.

      I wish there was a way to truly gauge the risk, compared to other food items. You can’t compare sheer numbers of illnesses, b/c so many more people eat, say, lettuce, than raw milk. Ya know?

      Anyway. It is what it is, I suppose. Thanks for your kind words.

  14. Katie says

    I’m sorry you had a bad experience with raw milk, it’s a shame really since it is such a great ‘whole’ food. I absolutely love our raw goat’s milk (we keep a couple of goats for milk and other dairy products) and can’t wait till they kid again. My oldest daughter and I got food poisoning from under-cooked chicken at a friends BBQ once and it certainly makes you think twice before touching the food again. However I see it as falling off a horse; you have to get back on.

    I wonder. Does a person’s body build an immunity to food borne pathogens in the same way it does to vaccines or other pathogens? Food for thought. :)

    • says

      Hm. Probably… but then again. I don’t want my kids to be the guinea pigs. Although I guess they are the guinea pigs no matter which side of the fence we live on.

      I think the reason I have so readily given up on raw milk after this experience is because we have never been 100% confident in this choice to begin with. I don’t know if it is the fault of the media and the world we live in, scaring us all unnecessarily, or if it is truly warranted to be wary of it, but it is listed as one of the higher risk foods to consume and for now, I’ll just abstain. :-)

  15. says

    Thank you for sharing this with us Jo-Lynne. I have thought about trying raw milk. I appreciate your honesty. I get sick from everything and nothing. I can’t seem to narrow it all down. Once I think I “get it, ” “it” changes. I’m still thinking about changing when the kids are older and have stronger immune systems. 3 out of 4 of us are lactose intolerant. We drink 3 gallons of milk each week – one lactose free, one regular and one soy. I want us all to be getting what we need and make it easier. Keeping up with who’s milk is gone, ect. gets to me after a while! I am really sorry that you and your family got sick . It is unfortunate. I find that I am scared of all food and I like to eat things before I give them to the kids so that if something is wrong, I get sick, not them. But how do you live like that? I hate that we have to fear food.

    • says

      I think we just know too much nowadays. We hear about every outbreak of anything b/c of the way news travels. I really don’t think we should fear food. But the fact remains that food IS complicated nowadays. It just is b/c there are SO many choices and we can’t be in control of making it all so we have to rely on others to produce it. There is a lot of room for error, for sure.

    • says

      Jen, your family sounds like mine. We buy 2 half gallons of Lactose Free milk which, sadly, doesn’t come in organic around here, 2 gallons of 1% and 1 gallon of 2% (both organic). I shop on Monday and by Saturday we need more milk. It’s SO expensive. We’re trying to cut back on milk consumption because I truly believe we are drinking too much milk for our systems.

      Anyway, I digress. Jo-Lynne, thank you for sharing. I was always SO curious about raw milk and there were times when you almost convinced me to give it a try. I know it’s still try-able, but knowing your experience makes me believe that the path we follow is what is right for us at this time, with young children.

      SO glad you’re okay.

  16. says

    Oh, Jo-Lynne, I’m so sorry. I can’t imagine how hard this decision was. We (really, I) have always struggled with the raw milk step, too. We haven’t lived any place yet where it’s legal so it hasn’t been so much of an issue because getting it was so difficult. My husband grew up on it because he was raised on a farm and they milked their own cow.
    I appreciate your honesty and I’m glad you guys are on the mend.

  17. Kelly says

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.
    We actually buy our raw milk from the farm where the outbreak happened.
    Luckily, I couldn’t make it to PA. the week that the tainted milk was sold. We live in MD. and I have to smuggle it in. Thankfully, we did not get sick!
    I’m on the fence about whether or not to continue drinking it. We only give it to our son, as I believe that we don’t really need milk once we are done nursing. We are, after all, the only species that continues to drink milk after being weaned.

  18. says

    That had to have been a very very hard decision. {hugs} I wish I had something more to offer, but you know I live in the land of GMO and raw milk isn’t even an option so I don’t know a thing about it.

  19. says

    Hey JL,

    Thanks for emailing me or I may have missed this post in the craziness of life. I’m so thankful that you’re all OK!

    My first thought when I read your question in the email, “So, if you got sick from raw milk, would you keep drinking it?”, was this: “If you got sick from peanut butter or spinach or lettuce, would you stop eating it?” (I see that you did address this in your post.)

    But truly, if I’d just been through what you have, I would probably stop drinking it, too, at least for a time. It’s just like when you have any stomach bug, whatever you ate just before the vomiting began just doesn’t even *sound* good for sometimes *months* afterward.

    I do hope, though, that after double-checking the safety measures in place at my farm that I’d be able to go back to it. As I’ve always said: while there’s a small chance of getting sick whenever you drink raw milk (or eat any raw food), there’s a 100% chance of better nutrition, better digestibility, probiotics, etc. etc.

    I’m so sorry for all you’ve been through, and I feel so bad for your farmer, too!

    Kel

    • says

      Yeah, it will take some time before I can even consider it. And really, it’s more about the kids than me. Hey, if I ever wanna lost 8 lbs again, I might go buy some raw milk! Haha. But the fear of the kids having lasting effects from something like this is more than I can bear to think about.

  20. says

    We enjoyed raw milk from a farm three miles from our house for years when we were living in south central PA. We miss it so much since moving to the West coast this last year, but I hear your heart. I wanted to say, no matter what you decide in the future about raw milk that I think it took courage to be so authentic in your blog space. Thank you for honoring your corner of the www with such honesty. Blessings, Tammy

  21. says

    So sorry you were so sick! What a nightmare. Thanks for sharing–I do appreciate when you take the time to say what works and what doesn’t. And I think here you really show that there is no one right choice, all the time, even within one family.

  22. Julie Stone says

    My family, too, got sick from drinking milk from this farm, including my 7 year old granddaughter. However, it seems like the farmer has done everything possible to rectify the situation including a new heater to heat water to clean the equipment, new electronic monitoring to watch for problems during the entire process and installing testing equipment so they can test each batch of milk themselves. I love their milk and we will continue drinking it with no concerns. He was proactive in stopping his sales as soon as he heard of any illness. Compare that to the thousands of recalls enacted by the government, not the providers.
    I have already gotten more milk from them and will continue to do so with no concerns. However, I certainly think this is a personal decision and don’t fault you at all if you stop drinking it.

    • says

      It’s so important to support this farmer now more than ever. It sounds like he took every appropriate step- and I’m sure it’s very expensive to go through all those measures and I think it’s wonderful you continue to support him, just as you would continue to visit a friend even if you got food poisoning at their home during a dinner party.

    • says

      He absolutely has, and I know he and his family agonized over this. I got every email, and I responded to each one expressing my support and encouragement, even as I lay on my couch with fever and cold chills and running to the bathroom every 5 minutes. I have only respect for the way he handled the situation.

  23. Emily says

    THANK YOU for writing this post. Seriously. My family has been drinking raw milk for going on two years now. While my husband and I believe wholeheartedly that it is very healthy, there have still been those lingering doubts and questions in the back of our minds as we drink it. I think I’ll share this post with my husband and see what he thinks.

    At the very least, if we stop drinking raw milk, we have a local company that produces grass-fed, non-homogenized, low-temp pasteurized milk that is delicious. Actually, that’s the milk we buy for our toddler. I hope you have access to something similar!

    But I just had to say thank you for sharing this with the internet. I’m sure it wasn’t easy. Again, thank you.

    • says

      I have a similar source. Unfortunately it IS homogenized. Bleh. But at the very least, it is local and organic and grass fed an pasteurized at a low temp. That will do for now. :-)

  24. Colleen says

    Thank you for your honesty! It’s one of the many reasons that I love your blog. Hope you’re all feeling better!

  25. Forest Harlan says

    Jo-Lynn, as others have stated, I am sorry that you got sick from a batch of raw milk. People have died from all manners of food, especially when produced commercially. I have stopped buying bagged spinach for instance, as well as commercial ice cream, chocolate, peanuts, meat, and cheese. I am curious about your choice to not consume raw milk, but to continue buying the spinach. According to various news sources, 5 people died from eating contaminated spinach in 2007. How do you justify eating one food and not another?

    I would expect that a combination of government intervention and market forces would compel the producers of the tainted milk to ensure that no future contamination occurs. They will need to convince a skeptical public that their milk is safe to drink again.

    My wife and I purchase raw goats milk from a neighbor who is careful about washing her goats’ teats before milking. Her level of care is reassuring. I would advocate for people purchasing their raw milk products from as local a source as possible. As we say in our local Weston A. Price group, “Who’s Your Farmer?” The further you are from the source, the greater the liklihood of a food-borne pathogen getting in your food. My wife and I buy over 80% of our food at our local Farmers’ Market and we wash all of our food very carefully.

    I hope that you may reconsider your decision and find a way to restore your confidence in your food supply system.

    • says

      Forest, part of the discrepancy between the milk and spinach is simply that I got sick from milk, not spinach. Now that I have been this sick from a food, you can rest assured that I will be more careful with EVERY food I purchase and prepare.

      I buy primarily organic produce and try to get it as local as possible but I admit to buying those big plastic tubs of organic spinach from CA sometimes. I’d like to think organics are less likely to be contaminated, but I know it’s all just a big crap shoot.

      Your point about being further from a source is a good one. I live about 2 hours away from this farm. I have closer farms that produce raw milk, and have bought from all of them. I buy my milk at a store, rather than driving to the farm, b/c of the convenience and proximity. But that also means that there are that many more steps from the cow to my refrigerator, and that many more opportunities for someone to slip up. It makes me nervous, as this is obviously a very delicate food. If I had a cow in my backyard, it would be a non issue. But that is not the world that I live in.

      I thought I “knew my farmer” and I still got sick. Again, please know that I do not hold anyone to blame. It happens. I get that. But for now? I’m content with my choice. I can’t say what milk I’ll be buying next month or next year. I can just say that for today, I’m steering clear of raw milk. :-)

      • says

        I admire you for posting this. I’ve been on the fence about raw milk for a long time. I have a BS and MS in Food Science, so I was spent much time in classrooms going over foodborne illness, pasteurization and all matters of food microbiology. I personally choose to drink coconut milk, but my kids and husband drink whole, organic, pasteurized milk. I’ve always said, like you just did, if I could milk my own cow and be 100% confident of the path from the cow to my fridge, I’d consider it. Otherwise there are several steps where contamination can occur, even to the most diligent farmers.

        I feel for your farmer, but I also understand your choice.

        Kinda off topic, but have you tried kombucha? It might help with some gut issues.

  26. says

    Thank you for sharing your experience! I’m a raw-milk drinker, somewhat, because I am totally petrified of something like this happening to my family. So although we get raw milk, I only drink it after it’s been made into Kefir, and I low-temp pasteurize the rest for yogurt. Our farmer tests each batch for pathogens, and yet I can’t relax. It’s an emotional reaction, and I believe in raw milk, but the risk just is too much for me to be entirely comfortable with it.

    I’ll say though, that raw milk kefir is the only thing that has healed my gut. Even homemade kefir with pasturized milk didn’t do it.

    • says

      Interesting. I was buying raw milk kefir from another farm for a time. (I never managed to make it successfully myself.) I have heard wonderful things about it. I found it hard to get down, it was not a pleasant taste or texture for me. But it does have amazing health benefits.

  27. Michele says

    I am sorry to hear of your family’s illness, and obviously food *choice* is just that, and I certainly can understand wanting to avoid the food that made you sick for a period of time afterward, however I am saddened to hear of your decision to stop drinking raw milk. It just seems like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. For all of its nutritional benefits, and the absense of illness your family has enjoyed (especially the asthma), it seems like a huge decision, and quite counter intuitive to start drinking (in your own words) *dead* milk again. Perhaps healing your gut (GAPS Diet) would be a worth a try so that in the event your body was again faced with a bad bacteria, your immunity would be better able to fight it.

    • says

      It is a tough decision, for sure. Right now, I just don’t think the potential benefits of the raw milk are worth the angst. I’m not saying I won’t change my mind down the road (and I am very interested to see if we notice any difference in the asthma) but for now, I’m just not interested.

      As far as GAPS, I have considered that. I was going to do it this winter, but then I have actually been feeling so much better that I decided it’s not necessary. I think my gut is verrrrry slowly healing as a result of our whole foods diet and my gluten-free lifestyle. I hope that I don’t have to resort to GAPS. It sounds like a lot of work.

    • says

      Jean, thanks for sharing this. As I responded to someone below, I did get confirmation from the farmer himself that the bacteria was found in his milk. I don’t know if they have renounced this now or why they are saying they don’t know where it came from.

      The milk tests to which they are referring are to the current milk. That has been tested clean. It was only one isolated batch that was infected, from what I heard from the farm.

  28. Kristie says

    Thanks for sharing your experience. We’ll continue to drink RM, but like you said, we wouldn’t know of the stories of actual sickness unless someone told them!

    • says

      I believe they have passed an inspection that allows them to sell milk again. All the CURRENT milk is clean. But I have an email from the farmer himself that says that one particular batch was infected with the campylobacter (with the expiration date of 1/31 – the same date as the one on my particular milk jug).

      As far as I know, that information is still accurate.

  29. Janelle says

    My first reaction to this is to feel so bad you are put in this situation to question the safety of raw milk, but I also would like to question how was this particular batch of milk handled? Maybe something happened after it was milked, plus maybe the cow was just getting sick with something, the farmers have to be very diligent about not allowing any milk from sick cows to be sold. It doesn’t surprise me that when they tested their dairy it was free of campylobacter, because it appears to be a very limited incident and might not ever happen again. I would consider that. We recently got food poisoning from Little Caesar’s pizza, don’t know how it happened because obviously the pizzas are cooked, but we are 99.9% positive it was the pizza. I have not eaten there again, but I have not sworn off all pizza, because its not a problem with the food its a problem with the handling. I’m so sorry you had to go through this.

    • says

      Yeah, and see, I have an uncle who got food poisoning from Kentucky Fried Chicken. I won’t touch that either, lol. I know it can just as easily happen anywhere, but once you experience it or know someone who has, it is really hard to get past it.

      • says

        I got food poisoning from KFC once. I don’t eat there anymore.

        I think it is a very normal reaction to pull back once you’ve gotten sick from eating something. I think if it was me and I ever reconsidered I would weigh how much milk has been sold and how often this has happened from the farm that I chose. There will always be a one off, but we learn from our mistakes. It sounds like this farmer did.

        I’m also curious to see if your son’s allergies return. I’ve heard that eating local honey will help with allergies because it is made from local allergens. I would think the same would be true for local milk.

  30. says

    My family has been drinking raw milk for almost a year. Well we stopped in late November because the dairy we use is not a year around dairy, but we are counting the days until March or April when the dairy cows have their babies and start producing again. We have been purchasing our milk from a small Colorado dairy. If this were to happen to us I know that we would seriously have to reconsider drinking raw milk but I don’t know what that answer would be. I am upset that this happened but I am actually surprised it wasn’t in the US news more. It seems as if anytime something goes from with raw milk the FDA is all over it and promoting that raw milk is this awful thing when the FDA is responsible us allowing us to eat chemicals and crap and non-food products and not allowing us to know what exactly is in food. Sorry tangent there!

    I am glad to hear that your family is better and that you did find a good local source of pasteurized milk. You are one of the many reasons that we started drinking raw milk. Not the only one that got us going but one of them.

  31. Robert Shay says

    It is amazing to me the controversy over this subject the main article is about a personal decision, how can one dring this raw milk. The preson gets sick always with pasturized milk yet if they get sick once from raw it is bad. HUM>> The tests came back from outdated milk. Past expiration dates is my understanding. We drank the same milk and had no sick kids in our home. We drank 3 gallons of it and no one got sick. HUM>>>>>>> Raw Milk is great. If you know the farmer you would know their committment to caring for the earth, cows, us and all of creation. I choose this any day over a conglomerate. Know you farmer. Go talk to them and see their operation. Amazing people.

  32. Genet says

    Here in Missouri, we’ve had TWO BABIES DIE of a certain bacteria shown to be found in a certain type of Baby Formula. Those particular “lots” were pulled from the shelves. . . .but people STILL give their children the same brand/type of formula.
    It is truly a difficult decision, isn’t it ?
    Odd that so many people are sick over a wide area, and they aren’t really sure what is exactly causing it ????

    • says

      They did have milk come up positive for campylobacter. I don’t know why they are now saying they don’t know how people are getting sick. Unless there is new information that the farmer hasn’t passed along to his mailing list yet.

      And I hear ya. I do. But it will be a while before I care to drink raw milk again, logical or not. I was very VERY ill.

      • Genet says

        Wait. . . .if I read this article correctly, there are 1,300 cases of this in PN each year?
        Wow. I didn’t know there were that many raw-milk illnesses. . . . hmmm ?

  33. Janelle says

    Why not keep supporting this farmer and softly boil it yourself at home? It would be much gentler for you to do it at home if you really feel like you could get sick from it. Sometimes I myself like to heat up the raw milk, not to the point of boiling just enough so that it is not cold anymore.

  34. J says

    I appreciate your honesty about what your family went through, and your consequent decision. My family has been in the restaurant business all of my life, I know food poisoning is nothing new, and certainly not restricted to raw or organic foods. I’d rather get food poisoning from healthy foods than processed unhealthy foods. Obviously, different types of foods carry different types of risks. Pregnant women especially have to be careful of their food choices.

    My first reaction was – “I wouldn’t stop drinking raw milk. If it had been lettuce, I’d still be eating it, so why stop just because it’s milk. It’s the whole ‘drama’ the FDA has built up in our minds!”

    BUT, honestly, after thinking about it, I would probably have the same gut reaction and actually NOT drink it for awhile. I think it’s the survival instinct to not eat or drink anything that we associate with being sick. I would hope that I would be able to overcome this quickly,and drink raw milk again because logically it is one of the healthiest foods available, but thank God you have a choice of what type of foods to make available to your family. You will do the right thing for you and your family.

  35. Laura says

    I honestly believe that the risk of getting sick from raw milk is no higher than that of pasteurized milk. There were recalls on milk and eggs a year and a half ago- and they were all pasteurized. It didn’t keep the milk and eggs from contamination. I’ve also had horrible food poisoning that took weeks to get over (not from milk or eggs), so I understand what food poisoning means. I’m not giving up raw milk.

  36. says

    When I talked to Mike about raw milk he gave me a strong “NO!”, saying that with my gut there was no way he was going to allow it. I get it, too. I can’t even take an antibiotic without it killing all the good flora and putting me through that awful ‘loop’ of trying to replace it. Takes weeks and weeks! The last time we had fast food I had an awful allergic reaction because they’d changed one ingredient and we didn’t know before I ate it. Food can be scary sometimes. My son used to work at the fast food place we ate from and he told me to make sure I never eat there again, saying it’s very common place to share utensils and prep areas between the different foods they make. In other words, just not buying the offending sandwich wouldn’t keep me from not getting the new ingredient that I’m allergic to.

    This is going to sound cheesy but I give props to you for my gut. I’ve done a lot of the things you’ve talked about … less processed food, paying better attention (and research) on where my food is coming from and making more food from scratch. I haven’t been getting sick like I used to. The last couple of years have been pretty awesome for my gut, really. I so appreciate all the work you do here and appreciate your honesty, like with this post. I’ve still been wondering about raw milk, even though Mike is totally against it for me. I can see this happening to me, easily. Silly flora and whatnot. I agree that you never know. Sometimes it just happens but I’d rather err on the side of caution I think.

    • says

      I do think there is a LOT we can do to better our health without drinking raw milk. I am so glad your gut is getting better.

      I think that is where this decision comes into play for me. Raw milk may well be just as safe as any other food (although I’m not convinced that it is), but thankfully I do have another option that is probably almost as good. The fact is, no one REALLY knows how much more beneficial raw milk is than a good quality pasteurized milk. And for now, for us, it’s just not worth the angst.

  37. says

    I appreciate your post JoLynne. I still want to try raw milk but I’ve been hesitant to give it to my kids – for the same reason you told one someone earlier – I don’t want them to be guinea pigs. It’s illegal here, so the decision has pretty much been taken out of my hands – but this spring we’re going to visit the farm that produces the organic milk we buy – that should be a fun trip!

  38. says

    I’m sure that whatever food made me very sick would be a big turn-off to me for a while!

    I’m sure that if raw milk were the culprit, that I would eventually drink it again, because of the benefits.

    And I’m quite sure that this sort of thing is a very individual matter to be handled however one deems best :)

    Blessings…

    • says

      Thank you. :-) It IS a very personal thing, and that is because no one walks in anyone else’s shoes. I was incredibly sick last week. And ironically, I am the one who is most likely to drink raw milk again even though I got the sickest, b/c I am the one who can’t tolerate pasteurized, and I would rather risk my own illness than that of my kids.

      But it will be a while before I drink it again, and it will not be on a regular basis. At least, I don’t think so. But it’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind. ;-)

  39. says

    Jo-Lynne,

    After reading all the comments, it’s obvious that we are all passionate about what we believe to be right for our health and the planet, which is why I applaud you all the more for making your experience and decision public. I hope that all that read this understand that regardless of what the science and statistics say about anything, it’s the emotional component that influences us the most sometimes, and we must be comfortable with what we feel is best for us. Thank you again.

  40. Barb @ A Life in Balance says

    Wow! I’m sure that’s a tough decision for you to make, and as Kelly said, there may be a lot of emotion behind it right now. It’s okay. And, it’s fine to change your mind later. Honestly, I think we’re at risk for food-based illnesses more than we want to admit because of all the potential opportunities for bacteria to get into our food in conventional farming.

    I’m impressed by how soon you knew what the issue was, and that you heard directly from your farmer. That’s the kind of farmer I want raising my food.

  41. says

    so sorry you were all so sick!! Thank you for being brave and selfless in sharing this story. Although it is rare, I am sure that having a personal experience like it changes your feelings about raw milk. You have to do what is best for you and your family. You make great choices everyday, and your family is better for it!

  42. Carla Grytdal says

    I contracted hepatitis at age eighteen from a restaurant. Three days violently sick at home, then another three days in the hospital when they finally diagnosed me. An additional 6 weeks (part of which was in quarantine) of recovery at home. A lifetime (I’m in my 50’s) of low potassium levels and lowered energy levels because of this. Guess what? I still eat at restaurants.

    Flip side: My husband was from a large family who lived on and produced raw milk to be sold to a local milk processor. They, a family of eight, drank raw milk every day of their lives, until they sold the dairy due to a family death (not farm related.) More than 34 years of dairying, and no one EVER got sick from drinking raw milk, and if they had, it wouldn’t have been anyone’s “fault.” We live in a world where “someone must take responsibility” for everything. There is no such thing as an accident anymore.

    If I could afford to pay the astronomical prices for raw milk here in Washington State, I’d do it in a heartbeat. My husbands attitude is (after being a dairyman, mind you) if you have one diary cow you may as well have 50, because you have to milk them twice a day, 365 days a year, whether there’s one or 50. Otherwise we’d own our own dairy cow. It is illegal in Washington State to “cow share.” Bottom line: Raw milk IS more healthful. Do the right thing, BECAUSE it’s the right thing. You take chances every time you open your eyes, each day.

    Truthfully, I’d advise anyone who is concerned about their family drinking raw milk, to stop driving. There’s a seriously higher risk involved in death from a car accident then there is sickness/death from drinking raw milk.

    • says

      You make plenty of valid points, and I don’t disagree with much except your tone is a bit condescending. But I have 2 things to say.

      1. I NEVER placed blame. NOT ONCE. So let’s not talk about responsibility and fault.

      2. There are plenty of chances we have to take to live in this world. Raw milk is not one of them.

      (Which is not to say I’ll never drink it again. But it will be a while. And it is my business when or if that happens.)

    • Janelle says

      If you had your own dairy cow wouldn’t there be times when the cow would be ‘dry’ meaning you wouldn’t have to milk 365 days a year? But I know the small dairy we get our raw milk from does do it all year and I thank them so much for providing such a wonderful food for a very very low income.

  43. Susan says

    I’m so glad that you are all okay! It is interesting, however, that the kids (whom you said drank tons of milk) were down for the shortest amount of time, while you were laid out for days on your cup or two a week. Just something to ponder.

    • says

      Yes, I’ve pondered that a lot. In fact, the first morning when my little one had a sick tummy, I gave her the raw milk thinking it might help. I cringe, thinking of that, but then again, perhaps it wasn’t the worst thing? I don’t know. No one does.

      I have a very weak gut. I’ve been working at getting healthy for a few years. My kids are pretty much as healthy as kids can be, except for a few food allergies and mild asthma. My doctor thinks that I fared worse b/c I have a weaker gut. But who’s to say, really. Definitely food for thought. HA!

  44. TheFoodist says

    Instead of drinking pasteurized milk, which you stated is dead and known to be harmful in other ways, in every cup! not the rare raw milk incident, why don’t you culture the raw milk, as has been done since ancient times? Milk was never consumed on such a large scale and daily in it’s fresh state, like it is today, either raw or pasteurized. It has traditionally been cultured into cheeses, kefir, yogurts, buttermilk, clabbered milk, etc … and the cream soured and made into other things such as cultured butter. I agree, there is No safe food 100% of the time. It would be a shame for you to be scared off of this wonderful food, when it can be easily made as “safe” for consumption as you are seeing pasteurized milk to now be.

    • says

      Frankly, I’m just not that invested. If it was easy to purchase those items, I would happily do so. Unfortunately the closest source that I know is an Amish farm that’s hour away. And I’d still worry about contamination in their kitchen.

  45. J. says

    I was directed to your article from Kelly the Kitchen Kop, and read it with interest and sympathy. I’m sorry you and your family were sickened by raw milk; that is a terrible thing to go through. We’ve never been sickened by drinking raw milk but we’ve certainly had our share of nasty, horrible viruses through the years, so I can empathize.

    Whenever something like this comes up, I am reminded of my grandparents and great-grandparents and all the thousands of years of raw milk drinking that took place before our time. Did any of our ancestors ever get sick from drinking raw milk? Maybe, but I have a feeling their constitutions were stronger than ours today and so sickness like this was probably rare. If they ever did get sick from it, did they then stop drinking it? Probably not; they didn’t have other options and they probably figured it was just part of life.

    I liken this to vaccinations, which is a controversial topic all on its own. People have a choice to get vaccinated against certain diseases. If they choose to do this, there are many risks and side effects from toxic ingredients in the vaccines themselves, plus, immunity is never guaranteed. If they choose to not get them, they avoid the toxic cocktail of ingredients, but also run the risk of contracting those diseases. Then again, they may never, ever get those diseases, in which case they have avoided both the toxins and the diseases.

    Drinking raw milk can be risky. So can eating ground beef, peanut butter, and even organic baby spinach (pre-washed). Even organic/natural chicken has been found to be contaminated with salmonella. There is risk in everything we do. Does this mean we just stop eating those foods? To me that doesn’t make much sense. And I will say this. Since switching to a real, whole foods, WAPF diet, we’ve never gotten any kind of food-related illness, whereas previously, on a conventional diet, we did.

    This was a terrible, traumatic experience for you. Maybe, once you’re all healed, physically and emotionally, you might give raw milk another chance. Maybe the risks are worth it.

    P.S. Activated charcoal soaks up poisons and toxins in your system and helps heal intestinal illness fast. I have personal experience with this and it really works!

    • says

      Thanks for the activated charcoal recommendation. A week ago, I might have tried it. I do think I’m on the mend now.

      Fortunately we do have options nowadays, and while we can’t avoid all risks, we can reduce them somewhat. I wish we had more information on the percentage of illnesses from eating certain foods, not just straight numbers. It’s such an interesting subject.

      • Josh Levine says

        http://www.fsis.usda.gov/science/progress_report_salmonella_testing/index.asp

        The percentage of supermarket meat hosting live salmonella at this moment is between 5 and 18%, depending on the animal (according to the USDA website, see link above). Consumer Reports did a pretty large study last year on salmonella present in chicken and the result was a 71% infection rate.

        Any non-processed animal foods bear some risk, when not cooked — if you know who is producing the milk, and trust them, I figure the risk is way lower than animal meat and bones packaged at a mass slaughterhouse that is 2000 miles away).

        I drink “Certified” Raw milk only, whenever we are in Pennsylvania (shout out to green pasture farms, Starrucca, PA!) and take whatever the risk because the milk is so uniquely potent at fixing my allergies. I drink within two days.

        (Also directed to this stream via Kelly the Kitchen Kop)

        • says

          Thanks, Josh. And that is why I do not buy meat at the grocery store. :-) Plus, I can cook my meat. Maybe I should cook my milk. (And my spinach. LOL.)

          Can you elaborate on the “certified” milk? What does that mean?

          • Josh Levine says

            My dad knows more about this and he is out of the country for a couple weeks so I can’t ask him directly. I will email him as to why he insists on this.

            That said, this much I do know (and it’s enough for me and may be relevant for you):

            1. The State of PA requires “Complete inspections of raw milk permit holders and their required records every 3 months” (pasteurized milk has no similar on-site inspection requirement, because cleanliness is not that critical to the consumer’s health, presumably)
            LINK:
            http://www.agriculture.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/gateway/PTARGS_0_2_24476_10297_0_43/AgWebsite/ProgramDetail.aspx?name=Milk-Sanitation-Program&navid=12&parentnavid=0&palid=130&

            2. It’s a certification, and I usually trust a certified food before one that isn’t certified (although I don’t trust organic third party certification from China a whit). For example, even though I am not “Kosher,” I trust kosher food a bit more since I know there is someone watching the quality of the food aside from the maker of the food.

            Incidentally, on the topic of cooking meat and spinach to be safe, I know you are joking around a bit but seriously, if everyone actually did cook their meat using a meat thermometer, to make sure beef hit at least 160 degrees and poultry 165, there would be millions of fewer stomach aches in America each year — literally, there are actually stats illustrating this. I am a bit overcareful about my food, having contracted salmonella while in college (sick for months afterward, along w 300 other kids, and yes we did sue and win). That’s why it is interesting that I am coming out on the side I am regarding raw milk. Although if I do get sick from it I’ll probably hold off for a while before doing so again. Chrs!

  46. says

    Jo-Lynne, Thanks for sharing your story. I love reading your food posts! My family just recently joined a herd-share program and we’ve been enjoying the raw milk and fresh cream for coffee. We do have confidence in our farmer’s processes, but like you said, there’s no such thing as a 100% guarantee. I will definitely talk to my farmer about this though, just to hear what he says and to make myself feel like I’m as informed as I can be. Glad you’re all getting better, and I will definitely be interested to hear how you all fare when you switch to gently-pasteurized milk.

  47. says

    Jo-Lynne, thank you for your honesty. This must have been a hard post to write!

    I’m glad you are all feeling better. I can totally understand why you have decided to stop the raw milk for now. Besides not being 100% convinced, it’s so hard to start eating something after you’ve gotten sick after eating it. Among other things I don’t eat because of unfortunately-timed vomiting episodes are m&m cookies and shrimp. Sounds silly, but I just can’t do it any more.

    My 4-year-old pretty much won’t eat peanut butter anymore because it was her last meal before the last time she had the stomach bug (at least six months ago).

  48. says

    Jo Lynne, I appreciate your sharing this experience, and think you addressed everything that happened with the utmost of grace.

    (I’m not sure why people who don’t live in your house have such a need to change your mind on the type of milk you serve your family, but I guess after blogging so long you are used to it, because you handle it with very good humour! Bless your heart! I understand your feelings exactly! It is so hard in this day and age where we know so much and have so many options. Ugh! I am sure your family will thrive no matter what!)

  49. says

    first of all, i’m glad everyone is okay. that could have been worse.
    second, i appreciate your post and your knowledge. it’s not something i was aware of before. i think your decision is exactly that…your decision. and i’m glad you shared it with us.

  50. Genet says

    Ok. . . .what is this “certified raw milk” everyone keeps talking about? IF raw milk is pretty much out of the hands of the government, how could it be “certified?”
    Then again, here in MO the only way we can really get it is to go out to the farm and buy it direct. It’s neither legal, or illegal, but most farmers steer clear of as much government “certification” as they can. . . . .

  51. Sabrina Hope says

    Thanks for the informative post Jo-Lynne. I live in Canada, so raw milk is illegal to sell here. I didn’t realize in certain states you could purchase it. That’s really cool. I grew up on a dairy farm in Ontario, so although it was illegal to sell raw milk, you could drink your own raw milk. We never bought “store milk” because it was too expensive. And yes, we drank a lot of it because it was always available and free. I’m glad you and your family is feeling better.

  52. says

    Hi Jo Lynne,
    I’m glad you decided to go ahead and write about it.
    I’m a big supporter of raw milk and buy it for my family – but I do think we need to be honest about potential risks.

    Have you read David Gumpert’s (The Complete Patient) latest post? He brought up a good point, I’m curious what your thoughts are:

    “I’ve always thought the the WAPF’s reluctance to admit to the risks associated with raw milk stemmed from an understandable defensiveness born of unfair governmental targeting of raw dairies. I’m hopeful that the experience of The Family Cow will perhaps convince WAPF’s leadership that there is more value in transparency than defensiveness, and it will try to learn from the experience of Ed Shank. There is nothing to hide, after all … the number of illnesses from raw milk remains relatively low compared with other foods.”

    http://www.thecompletepatient.com/journal/2012/2/6/three-reasons-why-the-family-cow-campylobacter-illnesses-cou.html

    • says

      No, I didn’t. Thanks for the link. I was avoiding naming the farm, but I can see that was pointless. I have been in contact with Edwin, and I respect him immensely for the way he has handled this from start to finish.

      I think David makes a very good point about WAPF. I have been to the conference, I have read Nourishing Traditions and The Raw Milk Story (is that it?) and I am well versed in the culture of the raw milk evangelists. :-) I was always a bit hesitant about it, though, because people I know and trust ,who have a much better understanding than I do about science and bacteria, have tried to explain to me the risks and how bacteria multiplies and etc.

      While I respect WAPF and what they are trying to do, I think they need to be more realistic about the risks and more humble when there are incidences of contamination.

  53. Sue says

    I don’t have anything to say about the raw milk issue. I just wanted to leave a comment to say what a class act you are. You have addressed this situation and all these comments so eloquently and gracefully. So glad you’re feeling better.

  54. Stacey V says

    How do you know if the milk is low-heat pasteurized. Ask the farmer? And do you know of any local farms that the cows are strictly grass fed (besides the Raw milk sellers)? I’ve asked a few and all of them give feed also. I know there is a farm in Lancaster and one of the local small farms was selling their milk but they aren’t anymore.

    • says

      Usually dairies advertise what kind of pasteurization methods they use. Natural By Nature writes about it on their website, which is how I know. But you an always call and ask. Natural By Nature also advertises having grass-fed milk but I don’t know if they also use feed or not. Even if they do, they are certified organic so I know that the feed is organic. I prefer to know the cows are on pasture (and realize that during the winter supplementing with feed may be necessary) but I assume they use milk from several farms and I’m not sure what their practices are.

  55. Amy says

    We were sick from this dairy, too. It was the worst illness my husband and I have ever had! Our children had it the week before us (before the reports of illness became widespread), and their case was minor. We came down later in the week so violently that I couldn’t believe we had the same bug they did. We assumed, instead, that our sickness came from the Indian take-out we’d had for a date night dinner the night before.

    I was hospitalized (complications from dehydration, as I’m a nursing mom), and had the most amazing reaction at the hospital. At first, when I believed it was our take-out, the doctors and nurses were SO SYMPATHETIC. “Oh, you poor thing! So sick! What a price to pay for a date night…” Later, when I realized that we must have gotten sick from the milk, it was a complete turn-around. “Why would you drink something that could poison you? You knew the risks going into it. That’s why it’s illegal many places. You gave it to your children?!?!?”

    Suddenly, I went from being a victim to someone who had courted my illness. All because I wanted good, nourishing, local food for my family.

    My heart goes out to this dairy. They’re so broken up about the pain they’ve caused so many families. I keep thinking to myself, if they were a giant corporation, this would be a blip in their sales, forgotten in a year. They’d play the blame game, not take responsibility, and otherwise divert us from focusing on the real issues, which are safe food handling and the possibility of all food making us ill under the right conditions.

    I’m glad you and your family are feeling better. It really did seem to effect the adults much worse than the children, which is perhaps the luckiest turn of events.

    • says

      That is truly incredible, isn’t it? No one blames anyone for feeding their kids the crap at McDonalds. But raw milk? OH BOY.

      My heart goes out to them too. Edwin has been WONDERFUL and he feels so badly about it all.

      Interesting that you experienced the same as we did – with the adults getting it worse. And yes, I am SO thankful that the kids bounced back so quickly. SO VERY THANKFUL.

  56. says

    Jo-Lynne – I’m so glad to hear that your family is okay. And I’m thankful that you posted this information about your raw milk experience and how your family was impacted.

    I have wanted to serve my family raw milk for years and we have not had a good experience with it. During my most recent attempt to migrate my family to raw milk my husband and oldest son got what we thought at the time was a stomach bug. It took me a few days to realize it was the milk because our daughter didn’t have any symptoms. As in your case, my husband was way sicker than our son. We discontinued with that raw milk and I have sort of given up on the idea of serving my family raw milk. I must admit, I have felt guilty about it ever since. I’m convinced on paper that it is the best form of milk to serve my family but they keep getting sick drinking it.

    We live near the Natural by Nature farm store in Chester County and have been drinking their milk for a few years. We (by we I mean they, since I don’t drink milk at all) love their products and their prices.

    Again, thanks for sharing your experience. I really enjoy your blog and all the local information you provide.

    • says

      Have you had their non-homogenized milk? I wish I had that available near me.

      Odd that you’ve had so much trouble with raw milk, although I heard once along the way that some people do have a hard time adjusting to it at first. Dunno…

  57. Pam says

    It took me a long time to be able to respond to this. First and most importantly, I’m glad that you and your family are on the mend from this (no other way to put it) sad occurrence. I understand the conflicted feelings you have when you want to do what is best for your family, and not just government approved action.
    I drink raw milk whenever I can get it. My grass fed dairy farmer friend is rather overwhelmed with demand, so I get fit in when she has some left, as I only need a little bit. I have seen her work and at one time helped her with her lovely ladies. I see the care she takes for their health and those of her customers. I have also witnessed corporate dairy farms, and to see the difference between just the attitudes towards the animals is huge.
    The only problem I have with the declaration of sickness, outside of informing others who might be getting milk from the same dairy, is the viral effect it will have on raw milk legislation. I am not minimizing the problems you and your family encountered at all. Everyone who cares about “real food” knows that corporate farms are routinely let off the hook when thousands of pounds or gallons of a product is tainted and hundreds of people get sick. They get away with a recall and nothing is ever said about what has happened to the people who got sick, or what practices where changed at the operation. I just hate that “the fix” is in, when it comes to government oversight and big ag. So I do my own little bit to fight it. I grow my own organic veggies. I drink raw milk when I can. I write my so-called representatives to pass pro-raw milk legislation. I do my best to inform people that the government does not have their best interests at heart by telling them what they can and can not eat.
    I will continue to drink raw milk, most probably because I know and trust the supplier. If I ever get sick from her milk, I do know that she has done the best she can and no one is perfect. I have no intention of doing anything other than informing her of my sickness, (and my doctor if necessary). I know that if she finds out something like that, she will be proactive enough to do whatever is necessary to remedy the situation. I do feel bad for the farmer whose milk got you sick. With all the internet info out there, I wonder if his dairy will be able to continue in business. It’s not like the old days when the people who need to know got the necessary information. Now it’s out there all over the world, whether anyone else is affected or not. And sad to say, it’s a black eye for the raw milk producers.

    • says

      Yes, for better or worse, that is the world we live in today. This blog is about my life and my experiences. And this is my life and my experience – nothing more and nothing less.

      People DO deserve to know that they can get sick from a farm that they trust. And yes, it IS a black eye for the raw milk producers. There’s no way around that.

      I don’t believe any good is served by only telling the glorious parts and hiding the negatives. I know that I trust the bloggers who I read to be honest with me, and I will give no less to my audience. I explained that thoroughly in my post so I won’t beat a dead horse.

      As far as this farm is concerned, his dairy will continue and it will thrive because of the relationship he has with his consumers and because of how well and how forthrightly he handled this. Just read the comments in this post. He has earned a lot of respect for handling this openly and honestly. The news articles and their half truths are a helluvalot more detrimental to raw milk than this post could possibly be.

      • Pam says

        Thanks so much for your courteous response. You’re right, for better or worse we have to deal with the world we live it. It’s just kind of rotten all around sometimes, I think. As I said, I am very glad that you and your family are ok now. I like your blog and will continue to read it.

  58. Robin says

    I also found your article by way of Kelly the Kitchen Kop and am so sorry to hear about it. When we made the switch to raw milk a couple years ago, I remember at first feeling a little weird about drinking it, as it is so ingrained in our culture to fear raw milk, but I very quickly grew to love it and feel completely confident in drinking it, no second thoughts here. However, since then, I have become increasingly aware of how thankful I need to be for the dairy where we obtain our milk, as they are the only ones I have seen that actually test EVERY batch of milk before sending it out. They have even starting sending out weekly emails to give the testing results (“All milk is clean!”), and there have even been a couple times where they have decided to not send milk out if a test comes back positive. In fact, in the couple instances when that happened, when they retested using another sample, it has actually come back clean (meaning that it was only the initial sample that was somehow contaminated, not the whole batch).

    Anyway, all that to say is that I don’t really understand why more farms and dairies do not do this. I can understand that it probably increases costs somewhat, but I would guess that a lot of people drinking raw milk would be willing to pay a little more for that piece of mind, and there are probably lots of other people who might feel more confident making the switch to raw milk if they knew it was being tested weekly instead of just monthly like most places. (By the way, in case you are wondering, we’re in Colorado and use Windsor Dairy, awesome place!)

  59. says

    I think you are making a mistake stopping the raw milk. You yourself said the kids didn’t get very sick. If you got sick from some leftover chicken in your refrigerator, would you stop eating chicken? No. If you got in an accident from driving around in your car, would you stay home and never drive a car again? No. You would accept that there are inevitable risks with every choice in life and move on.

    I am very sorry you got so sock, but the bottom line is that raw milk is so much better for your kids than store milk and that you are making a long term mistake not buying it for them anymore.

    • says

      At first I decided not to reply to this comment because it really doesn’t dignify a response. But as I’ve thought more about it, I think you should know that this method of delivery is never going to win people to your side of this debate. I met you last year at the WAPF conference, and I know what a fun and friendly person you are and how knowledgable you are, but none of that came across in these comments. In fact, your comments made me never want to drink raw milk again. No one likes to be told what to do, and I’m no exception.

      I also have a response to the “If you got sick from some leftover chicken in your refrigerator, would you stop eating chicken? If you got in an accident from driving around in your car, would you stay home and never drive a car again?” questions that are sprinkled throughout the comments.

      I considered writing a new post because this will be lengthy, but I don’t really care to open up the discussion again so I’m going to write it here.

      Initially that argument made me think twice about my choice. And then the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it is really a weak argument, and here is why.

      If I got sick from chicken, would I eat it again? Perhaps. Eventually. But first I would ask myself, where did the chicken come from? Could I have been more careful in my preparations? Should I seek out a better source for my chicken? I would certainly be much more careful with chicken from then on. (And for a while, I probably would not want to eat chicken. I didn’t eat pecan pie for YEARS after getting sick from it. That is not an unusual reaction.) As it is, I do not buy chicken from the grocery store if I can help it. I buy it from a reliable farmer, and then I COOK IT WELL, as food safety experts advise.

      If I got sick from a restaurant, I would likely never at there again. I have an uncle who got sick from KFC and I won’t touch the stuff. Not that I eat fast food on a regular basis, but the same is true for ANY restaurant. Or grocer, for that matter. I heard that someone got sick from meat from a local grocery store. I never buy fresh food from there anymore. Oh and the friend’s house where I got food poisoning? You think I’d ever eat there again? Probably not if I could help it. (It would depend on the situation and if I felt there were being careful in their food prep or not.)

      And the car argument. I love that one. You’re the second person who made that point. After a car accident, or a bike accident, or anything, people tend to be much more careful. Motorcycle riding is particularly risky (some vehicles, like some foods, are riskier than others) and after a serious accident, people do give up motorcycles. There are other methods of transportation that are probably safer. I purchased a Volvo last year after much research because I’m convinced it is the safest car I can put my kids into. It cost more than any other car I looked at, but the safety is worth it to me.

      My point is, after one gets sick or injured, they tend to take greater precautions and safety measures so it doesn’t happen again. Pasteurization is that safety measure with milk.

      I am not comparing drinking raw milk to eating grocery store chicken or any of the other foods people have brought up in the whole “if you got sick from x would you still eat it?” line of reasoning. I am not even comparing drinking raw milk to the industrial crap milk you get at Kroger. I am comparing drinking local, grass-fed, organic raw milk VS local, grass-fed, organic gently pasteurized milk. I am not yet convinced that benefits of drinking raw milk FAR outweigh the small risk of getting sick. I’d love to be able to measure the differences between the two, but so far no one has really been able to do that, as far as I can tell. Either way, that is a debate that will rage on and on and we certainly aren’t going to settle it here. Perhaps we’d be better off just avoiding milk altogether. That’s another option, although I think my family would revolt.

      I am open minded and interested to see how my kids fare with this change in their diet. But if I do decide to give raw milk another chance, it will not be due to comments such as this one. It will be due to the gentle, understanding, thoughtful comments that are sprinkled throughout this post and due to my family’s personal experience with this small diet change. You would do well to consider your tone and delivery when preaching the raw milk gospel. Otherwise you may do your message more harm than good.

      This is my final comment on this post. Since it’s my blog, I get to have the last word. ;-)

  60. says

    I should also add that my entire family had campylobacter last year. My daughter had it the worst and it was quite severe. I had it very mild – maybe an afternoon of trips to the bathroom and that’s it. It wasn’t the raw milk we drink, it was from a restaurant but there was a period of time we thought it was the raw milk.

    Did I for one second ever consider not drinking raw milk anymore when I thought there was a possibility that it might have been that? No. The benefits of drinking raw milk FAR outweigh the small risk of getting sick.

  61. says

    Sarah, as I commented early on here, that if I were to get sick from it, I am sure I would continue to drink raw milk. I am quite sure that the benefits far outweigh the small risk.

    However, your comments come across to me as judgmental and disrespectful.

    It is very, very important that we respect each other’s right to choose what is best for us, for our family.

    Blessings…