January 25, 2006
FORT COLLINS — Lugene Sas, owner of Taft Hill Dairy, said Tuesday that his dairy is the one that the state pinpointed as allegedly sickening 27 people.
Tuesday, a dozen raw-milk supporters gathered in the parking lot of Taft Hill Dairy, located four miles north of County Road 54G on Taft Hill Road near Fort Collins.
Ray Norden, 74, said he’s been drinking raw milk for more than 70 years. He said health officials think he had the bacteria in his system, but he said he doubts it.
Rebecca Woodbury of Fort Collins also doubted the test results.
“Even if campylobacter is the cause of the sickness, I will not stop getting the milk,” she said. “I am informed. This is a risk that I take. If you think you’re going to get sick, don’t drink it.”
Sas explained sanitation methods for the milking process.
First the udders are washed, then dipped in sanitizing solution, and finally scrubbed with an alcohol wipe.
He said he’s not sure what happened, or if his dairy is responsible for the outbreak.
“I don’t know if it came from the dairy,” he said. “It could’ve been from raw eggs or chicken. It could’ve been from the milk.”
Ruben Marez of Masonville said if anyone would have noticed something wrong with the milk, he would.
“I’ve had a liver transplant. I have zero immunity,” he said. “If this milk was bad I think I would notice it very quickly.”
A laboratory confirmed five cases of campylobacteriosis in the raw milk users, according to Larimer County officials last week, but 27 people have exhibited symptoms of the infection.
Many of the cow-share owners are upset about comments from the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment. Last week, Dr. Adrienne LeBailly said “you always run a risk when you drink raw milk.”
LeBailly said it’s possible the bacteria came from other sources, but clusters of the infection aren’t common.
She said the state health lab will be performing genetic fingerprinting on the samples of campylobacteria to determine if it’s from the same strain. Test results could take weeks to come in.
Microbiologist Phil Bernstein, who also buys cow shares from Taft Hill Dairy, said bacteria are everywhere.
“It’s an evaluation of risk versus reward. That evaluation has to be made on a very personal level,” he said.
Sas said one customer has canceled milk shares. State statute says raw milk cannot be sold directly to customers. Instead, those interested in drinking raw milk must buy shares in dairy cows.
LeBailly said campylobacter is relatively low on the list of diseases you can contract from raw milk. There was a recent outbreak of E. coli in Washington state from raw milk “Three children were in critical condition, with E. coli. It causes renal failure,” she said. “They’re very lucky none of those kids died.”
Sas said he’s run a dairy for 26 years.
The recent outbreak was shocking, he said.
“It didn’t make me feel anything but devastated and brain numbing,” he said. “We absolutely try the very best all the time.”