Central District Health in Boise says illnesses could be linked to Idaho dairy farm

Local health officials warned that a harmful bacteria may be connected to an Idaho dairy producer after several people became sick.

Central District Health in Boise said it is investigating “reports of illness in five Ada County residents that may be associated with the consumption of unpasteurized (raw) milk.” The health district encompasses Ada, Boise, Elmore and Valley counties.

Since Sept. 20, three of those five residents tested positive for a bacterial infection called campylobacteriosis after drinking milk from Provider Farms in Mountain Home, the district said in a news release.

Provider Farms sells raw milk directly to customers at 10 different locations between Nampa and Burley, according to the company’s website. Its products include raw cow’s milk, raw goat’s milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs and honey.

Provider Farms did not immediately return the Idaho Statesman’s request for comment.

As part of its investigation, the health district said it is interviewing symptomatic patients and testing milk samples. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is assisting the investigation.

The Idaho State Department of Agriculture is working with Provider Farms to “mitigate any ongoing risk to consumers,” according to the health district. The state agency asked anyone who has purchased raw cow-milk products from Provider Farms in the past 30 days to dispose of them.

Milk is considered raw if it has not gone through a pasteurization process that involves heating milk to kill harmful bacteria, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Central District Health warned that drinking raw milk can pose health risks, particularly to young children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

Campylobacteriosis infections usually occur when campylobacter bacteria spreads to humans through raw or undercooked animal products, according to the World Health Organization. The organization listed diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, headache, nausea and vomiting as among the infection’s most common symptoms, which usually begin two to five days after contact.

Idaho is one of 11 states that allows stores to sell raw milk, with another 18 states allowing it to be sold directly from a farmer, according to legal group Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund.

Proponents say drinking unpasteurized milk provides a variety of health benefits, though many medical experts dispute this.

“Multiple studies have shown that pasteurization does not significantly affect the nutritional quality of milk,” the CDC website states. “Scientists do not have any evidence that shows a nutritional benefit from drinking raw milk.”