Farm’s milk not a threat, state finds

by Symptom Advice on January 27, 2012

Friday January 27, 2012

ASHLEY FALLS — A local herd of cattle was not actually infected with a rare bacteria as previously suspected, according to state regulators who have lifted a ban on milk sales at Twin Rivers Farm in Ashley Falls.

The state Department of Public Health acknowledged in a terse statement Thursday that the initial diagnosis of the farm’s owner as having contracted brucellosis, which is what prompted the farm’s initial quarantine, was incorrect.

Neither the DPH nor the state Department of Agricultural Resources have any further health concerns at this time, according to the statement.

As to what led health officials to diagnose brucellosis in the first place, officials were silent. The statement acknowledging negative test results from the farm contained no other information and a spokeswoman didn’t return calls for further comment.

Twin Rivers Farm made news across the state on Sunday after officials distributed an alarming consumer alert linking raw milk sold at the farm to brucilla, a bacteria that hasn’t been seen in this state in over two decades.

Only about 22 of the 680 gallons of milk Twin Rivers sells a week are raw; the rest are taken off site and pasteurized, a process that eradicates the bacteria.

Public health officials said the germ’s appearance in the state would have “significant implications” for the state’s livestock. according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, brucellosis can cause fever, sweats, headaches, back pains and physical weakness in humans, leaving chronic, long-lasting symptoms in some cases.

Although the state’s initial release didn’t indicate who had contracted brucilla, the farm’s owner, Robert Kilmer, told The Eagle last week that he was the case referenced by the health officials.

Kilmer, who wasn’t available for comment Thursday, previously told The Eagle he strongly doubted his milk was to blame for his sickness. He said his herd of about 270 was vaccinated for the germ and that no one else exposed to the milk had gotten ill.

Advocates for raw milk, who are currently pushing legislators to ease restrictions on sales of the product, also were critical of the state’s focus on unpasteurized milk as the cause of Kilmer’s illness.

“It seemed like they jumped to a conclusion too quickly,” said Winton Pitcoff, the coordinator of the Raw Milk Network of the Northeast Organic Farming Association’s Massachusetts chapter. “And now they aren’t doing enough to acknowledge that the end result is good news.”

A spokesman for the Department of Agricultural Resources said the agency “just wanted to take the necessary precautions.”

To reach Ned Oliver:,or (413) 496-6240.On Twitter: @BE_NedOliver

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