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Adulterated Milk Found in Minnesota

September 19, 1985

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ Penicillin has been found in certain milk products in 37 rural counties, and state officials warned residents Wednesday that the adulturated product was potentially fatal if consumed by people allergic to the drug.

There was no indication that anyone has been affected by the tainted milk. State agriculture officials were investigating how it got onto the market, said Agriculture Commissioner Jim Nichols.

Dairy farmers use penicillin to treat cow udder infections known as mastitis, the officials said. The drug is injected into a muscle and reaches the milk through the bloodstream, Nichols said.

″It’s a normal treatment done by just about every dairy farmer at some time or other,″ said Bill Coleman, director of the Agriculture Department’s Dairy Industries Division.

Nichols concurred that mastitis is a common problem and that penicillin is the drug normally used to treat it.

″But when you have this,″ he added, ″you take them off the (milking) line. I don’t know what happened here. Sometimes you run short of money, get a little desperate, I just don’t know.″

The milk, processed by Sanitary Dairy of Sleepy Eye Inc., has been on the market in 40 stores and 75 vending machines in southern Minnesota since Monday, Nichols said. It is sold under the labels Pinetree Dairy, Sanitary Dairy and Dairy King, he said.

The milk traveled from a farm and through another dairy before being handled at the plant in Sleepy Eye, Coleman said.

The Agriculture Department does not check dairy products daily, and discovered the adulterated milk through a spot check, Nichols said.

There was no answer at the dairy after the officials made their announcement Wednesday night.

Only products with the code 27-035 9-30 are adulterated, Nichols said, and the plant was in the process of removing the products from stores and machines.

The amount of penicillin in the milk is enough to cause an allegric reaction in people who are sensitive to the antibiotic, said state Epidemiologist Michael Osterholm of the state Health Department.

Symptoms of the reaction, called anaphylaxis, vary from hives to watery eyes, Osterholm said.

″It also may produce severe anaphylaxis, in which a person goes into shock, and it actually can cause death,″ he said. Of those who consume penicillin at the level found in the milk, only about four to 15 persons out of 100,000 would experience any reaction, he said.

Since milk drinkers may not know whether they are sensitive to penicillin, Osterholm said consumers should destroy the affected product.

″Should anyone experience early signs, such as hives, general weakness, sweating, they should contact their local emergency room,″ Osterholm said.

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