FDA Alerts Consumers about Risk of Antibiotic-Resistant Brucella Linked to Raw Milk from Udder Milk Co-Op
November 17, 2017
- Fast Facts
- What is the Problem and What is Being Done About It?
- What are the Symptoms of Brucellosis?
- Who is at Risk?
- What Specific Products Are In Question?
- What Do Restaurants and Retailers Need To Do?
- What Do Consumers Need To Do?
- What Do Health Care Providers Need To Do?
- Who Should be Contacted?
- Additional Information
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is supporting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other government agencies in an investigation of a case of brucellosis linked to the consumption of raw milk from Udder Milk, a “co-op on wheels” that sells raw milk in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.
- The FDA is urging consumers who drank raw milk from Udder Milk, which the company described on its website as a “co-op on wheels,” to contact their health care providers, as they may have been exposed to the RB51 strain of Brucella abortus. A New Jersey woman who drank the company’s milk was infected with antibiotic-resistant Brucella abortus strain RB51.
- People who drank or ate Udder Milk raw milk or raw milk products should contact their health care provider immediately to disclose that they may have been exposed to the RB51 strain of Brucella and to get antibiotic treatment to avoid infection. This is important because the RB51 is resistant to certain antibiotics. The only way to diagnose people who are infected with this strain is by growing the bacteria through bacterial culture, as opposed to a blood test.
- People who drank or ate Udder Milk raw milk and raw milk products should also check themselves for fever for four weeks after they last drank the milk, and watch for other brucellosis symptoms for six months. These symptoms include but are not limited to: muscle pain, lasting fatigue, arthritis, depression, and swelling of the heart.
- Udder Milk stated on its website that it sold raw milk products in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Both the New Jersey Department of Health and the Rhode Island Department of Health have issued cease and desist orders to Udder Milk, as it is illegal to sell unpasteurized milk in New Jersey and it is illegal to transport raw milk in final packed form for human consumption across state lines and sell the milk.
- The FDA is supporting multiple state health departments, New York and New Jersey state agriculture departments, the CDC, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in this investigation.
What is the Problem and What is Being Done About It?
The FDA is supporting multiple state health departments, New York and New Jersey state agriculture departments, the CDC, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in an investigation of a case of brucellosis linked to the consumption of raw milk from Udder Milk, a “co-op on wheels” that sells raw milk in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. The New Jersey patient who became ill told authorities that she drank milk purchased from Udder Milk. The New Jersey patient is the second known domestically acquired illness caused by Brucella RB51 in the United States this year, the other was in Texas in July. The two incidents are not related.
Brucellosis is caused by the bacterium Brucella. The strain of Brucella in the New Jersey case is B. abortus RB51, a weakened strain used to vaccinate young female cattle against infection with more serious strains of Brucella. Vaccinating cows with the RB51 vaccine helps prevent abortions in cows and reduces the risk of people coming into contact with cows infected with more severe strains of Brucella. However, in rare cases, vaccinated cows can shed RB51 in their milk. Pasteurization of milk kills this bacteria and other pathogens.
On November 9, 2017, the New Jersey Department of Health issued a cease and desist order to Udder Milk because it is illegal to sell raw milk in the state of New Jersey. On November 15, the Rhode Island Department of Health also issued a cease and desist order as it is illegal to sell raw cow's milk in that state.
The FDA is working with state agencies, who are investigating to determine the source of Udder Milk’s products, which the business had offered for sale online and through pick-up locations in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Udder Milk’s web site, which had provided contact information only through an email address and cell phone numbers, was inactive as of November 15, 2017.
The FDA is monitoring the investigation and will provide updated information as it becomes available.
People infected with Brucella may experience flu-like symptoms (fever; sweats; malaise; lack of appetite; headache; muscle, joint and/or back pain; and fatigue) that can progress to severe complications, including recurring fevers, arthritis, swelling of the heart (endocarditis), swelling of the testicles, and neurologic symptoms, among others. For more information, see Brucellosis Signs and Symptoms.
People infected with Brucella may not experience symptoms until up to six months after drinking contaminated raw milk.
People can get brucellosis when they are exposed to infected animals or raw or undercooked food from infected animals. Eating or drinking raw dairy products is the most common way that people get the infection.
Veterinarians, slaughterhouse workers and meat-packing plant employees, as well as hunters, can also be infected through close contact with infected animals, or their bodily fluids or carcasses. People can breathe in the bacteria or it can enter through a skin wound.
What Specific Products Are In Question?
Udder Milk stated on its website that it sells raw milk, yogurt, sour cream and cheese, as well as camel milk. The FDA has been unable to contact Udder Milk to request a recall of the raw milk.
Retailers and restaurants should not serve or sell any of the Udder Milk raw milk or raw milk products.
Wash and sanitize display cases and refrigerators where potentially contaminated products were stored.
Wash and sanitize cutting boards, surfaces, and utensils used to cut, serve, or store potentially contaminated products.
Wash hands with warm water and soap following the cleaning and sanitation process.
Retailers, restaurants, and other food service operators who have processed and packaged any potentially contaminated products need to be concerned about cross-contamination of cutting surfaces and utensils through contact with the potentially contaminated products.
Regular frequent cleaning and sanitizing of cutting boards and utensils used in processing may help to minimize the likelihood of cross-contamination.
Brucella can also cross-contaminate other food cut and served on the same cutting board or stored in the same area.
Retailers, restaurants, and other food service operators may wish to consider whether other foods available for sale could have been cross-contaminated from the potentially contaminated products, and should be discarded.
What Do Consumers Need To Do?
If you bought raw milk or raw milk products from Udder Milk, do not eat or drink it. Contact your health care provider immediately and be sure to tell them that you may have been exposed to the RB51 strain of Brucella.
Raw milk can contain dangerous bacteria that are harmful to your health. Please consult FDA’s website about The Dangers of Raw Milk: Unpasteurized Milk Can Pose a Serious Health Risk.
Consumers who had Udder Milk products in their homes should follow these simple steps:
- Wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.
- Wash the inside walls and shelves of the refrigerator, cutting boards and countertops; then sanitize them with a solution of one table spoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of hot water; then dry with a clean cloth or paper towel that has not been previously used.
- Wipe up spills in the refrigerator immediately and clean the refrigerator regularly.
- Always wash hands with warm water and soap following the cleaning and sanitization process.
What Do Health Care Providers Need To Do?
Health care providers should administer post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to patients who drank the contaminated raw milk to avoid infection.
RB51 is an antibiotic-resistant strain of Brucella. Health care providers can consult the CDC page Exposure to RB51 through Raw Milk or Milk Products: How to Reduce Risk of Infection for additional treatment information.
The FDA encourages consumers with questions about food safety to call 1-888-SAFEFOOD Monday through Friday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Eastern time, or to consult the fda.gov website: http://www.fda.gov.
- CDC: Brucellosis
- NJ Press Release: DOH Issues Cease-and-Desist Orders to Company that Illegally Sold Raw Milk in NJ
- Rhode Island Department of Health: Company Selling Raw Milk Told to Cease and Desist
- CDC: Raw Milk
The information in this release reflects the FDA’s best efforts to communicate what it has learned from the manufacturer and the state and local public health agencies involved in the investigation. The agency will update this page as more information becomes available.