Health Officials Investigating Montrose Dairy Farm After Raw Milk Makes Drinkers Sick

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

The Colorado Department of Health is investigating the Kinikin Corner Dairy Farm in Montrose, after officials received several reports that customers who purchased raw milk there were getting sick.

For more than four years, Scott Freeman has been bottling raw milk for his customers. But now, he's pouring it down the drain.

"We try to do the best we can," said Freeman. "We're conscious of all the different steps."

Although it is illegal to sell raw dairy products in Colorado, it is okay to operate a "cow share" dairy, where people can buy a part of the cow or herd and claim any products those cows make.

"It's a business model endorsed by the state to give the consumer a choice," said Freeman.

But unfortunately for Freeman, things are at a stand still at his dairy, after state health officials sent him a letter ordering him to stop producing and distributing raw milk, which they believe has made people sick.

"It's questionable whether it's the milk," said Freeman. "But our milk customers are getting sick so I can't say it's not our milk either."

Freeman says the situation is almost ironic, because many of his customers tell him they drink raw milk to boost their immune systems and overall health.

"Vitamins and enzymes that are naturally there are readily available and pasteurization tends to make them less available," said Freeman.

Health officials feel differently.

"Consuming raw milk is dangerous," said Richard Thompson, Environmental Health Manager for the Montrose County Health Department. "You're playing Russian Roulette with your health."

The Montrose County Health Department is helping the state with its investigation. Officials say they've confirmed 11 recent cases of Campylobacter -- a disease that causes vomiting, nausea, fever, and abdominal pain. They say at least 8 of those drank Freeman's milk. Cases have been reported in Delta, Eagle, Garfield, Montrose, Ouray, and San Miguel Counties, affecting people ranging in age from 2 to 79.

"It's still an ongoing investigation and it's very likely to grow in number," said Thompson.

Officials say Freeman has been cooperative with investigation so far.

Freeman serves 170 - 200 customers across the Western Slope. He says any time food is involved, there are always going to be health risks -- but that he's working hard to make sure that's not the case with his products.

"If we find something conclusive that says the dairy has a problem, we'll try to find it and fix it," said Freeman.

Freeman says he has sent samples from each of his dairy cows to a lab for analysis, separate from the samples collected by health officials. He hopes to have those results within two weeks.

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