The owner of a South Carolina dairy says an investigation by two states and the federal government into whether raw milk from her cows made eight people sick is a case of jumping to conclusions.
"They didn't wait for all the tests to come in," said Carolyn Adkins, owner and operator of the Tucker Adkins Dairy in York, S.C. "In fact, they have milk that they're still testing right now."
The federal Food and Drug Administration, along with health and agriculture officials in North Carolina, said earlier this week that raw milk from the dairy caused three definite and five likely cases of an ailment called campylobacteriosis in North Carolina, with one of the sufferers being hospitalized. The bacteria Campylobacter is a common cause of diarrhea-like illness.
Since 1987, the FDA has required all milk intended for human consumption to be pasteurized if it's going to be shipped across state lines for sale to people. Pasteurization - a process named after its pioneer, the French scientist Louis Pasteur - involves heating milk to a specific temperature long enough to kill disease-causing bacteria. But unpasteurized milk - generally called raw milk or real milk by advocates - has vocal supporters, including groups that lobby for legislation making it easier to obtain.
"When you look at the actual number of illnesses in comparison to the number of raw milk drinkers out there, it's a good safety record," said Pete Kennedy, president of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, which estimates there are roughly 10 million drinkers of raw milk in the U.S.