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Hawaii Health Department warns public not to drink raw goat milk sold mostly at pet stores

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The Hawaii Department of Health is warning consumers not to drink unpasteurized goat milk sold in many of Oahu’s pet stores.

The department said an embargo on raw milk products — which are unsafe for human consumption — is now in effect. Any pet stores or other retailers with raw milk on their shelves must remove the product from sale immediately, health officials, said, and destroy or return the product to their supplier.

Failure to do so, they said, may result in seizure and fines of up to $10,000 per day.

Officials said under state law, only Grade A pasteurized milk and milk products may be sold to the final consumer or to restaurants.

“The goat milk is being advertised as ‘pet food,’ but the sale of any form of raw fluid milk is a risk to public health because it is easily diverted for human consumption,” said Peter Oshiro, chief of the Food Safety Branch, in a news release. “There are many in our community that mistakenly believe that drinking raw milk is healthy, but this is simply untrue.”

The department’s Food Safety Branch inspectors are visiting pet supply stores and food retailers throughout the state, and issuing cease and desist notices. As of Thursday, officials said there were nearly 20 Oahu pet stores selling the unpasteurized goat milk product.

The state Health Department said drinking unpasteurized milk is unsafe because it may result in serious illnesses, hospitalizations and even death.

“Raw milk has the potential to carry and transmit dangerous pathogens including E. Coli, Salmonella, and a host of other bacteria that can cause disease,” said DOH in a news release. “It is especially dangerous for our keiki, kupuna, or those with weakened immune systems to drink raw milk because they may not be able to fend off these pathogens as a normal healthy individual would. “

In addition, children infected through the consumption of raw milk can spread disease through fecal-oral means and cause an outbreak among others they come into contact with.

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