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.

Join the Conversation

121 thoughts on “Sick From Raw Milk

  1. 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.

    1. 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. 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. 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. 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!

    1. 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. 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. 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. 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.

    1. 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. 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?

    1. 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. 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. 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. 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.

    1. 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. 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. 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!

    1. 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. 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. 🙂

    1. 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. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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!


    1. 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. 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. 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. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. 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. 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.

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

  25. 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.

    1. 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. 🙂

      1. 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. 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.

    1. 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. 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.

    1. 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.

    1. 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. 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!

    1. 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. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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. 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. 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. 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 ????

    1. 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.

      1. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.

    1. 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. 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. 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 🙂


    1. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.

    1. 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.)

    2. 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. 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.

    1. 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. 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.

    1. 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. Jo-Lynne, so glad you and your family are okay. One of the reason why I read your blog is because you are so authentic and honest.

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