DHHR: Results inconclusive in raw milk investigation

Published: Mar. 9, 2016 at 12:13 AM EST
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UPDATE 4/11/16

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The Department of Health and Human Services reports the results of their investigation into the possibility of raw milk making lawmakers sick have come back inconclusive.

WSAZ originally reported last month a delegate got two gallons of raw milk from a local dairy farmer and took them to the East Wing of the Capitol. The delegate told the DHHR he offered the milk to the Legislature an staff and says one gallon was consumer.

The DHHR tells WSAZ three people went to the hospital, and all three, based on record review, reported they consumer raw milk.

No milk was available for testing, according to the DHHR.

Officials tell WSAZ because of the limitations of this investigation, no conclusions can be drawn about the extent of illness, etiologic agent, or the mode of transportation.

UPDATE 3/26/16 @ 8:15 p.m.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – The recent story of how raw milk may have sickened lawmakers at the West Virginia Capitol is back in the news again – this time in the form of an investigation.

Shortly after passing a bill to allow West Virginians to drink raw milk, some delegates had a drink of it to celebrate the law’s passage and became sick.

However, other delegates who didn’t drink the milk also got sick, saying a bug was going around.

In the meantime, an investigation was launched and a letter was sent from the state Department of Health and Human Resources to the delegate responsible for bringing in the raw milk.

The letter says that delegate spoke with the DHHR by phone about a complaint filed after he offered and distributed raw milk at the Legislature on March 3.

According to the letter, the delegate told the DHHR that he obtained two gallons of raw milk from a local dairy farmer and transported it to the East Wing of the Capitol. He also told the DHHR that he offered the milk to the Legislature and staff.

About one gallon of the raw milk was actually consumed, according to the letter.

In the letter, the DHHR notes that it is clear that the delegate violated West Virginia law by distributing raw milk. It is the delegate’s first offense, though, so they have decided not to charge him.

ORIGINAL STORY 3/8/16 @ 11:13 p.m.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- In the weeks after passing a bill, allowing West Virginians to drink raw milk, one delegate brought the drink in to celebrate and, eventually, several lawmakers have gotten sick.

Some lawmakers say it's just a coincidence and a stomach bug is going around.

But, now, health officials are planning on looking in to how this all started.

An anonymous complaint is in at the state Department of Health and Human Resources.

And now, state health officials have to investigate why at least one person is saying the raw milk was given illegally and got these lawmakers sick.

However, other delegates, like Pat McGeehan (R - Hancock, 01), who is quite sick himself, say that recent stomach bug has been making the rounds for weeks.

"There's definitely...some other colleagues that have similar symptoms that I've been experiencing," McGeehan said.

But the timing is coincidental.

McGeehan and some other lawmakers drank raw, unpasteurized, milk to celebrate the passing of a bill that makes it legal before getting sick.

Several lawmakers say a delegate who sponsored the bill, Scott Cadle (R - Mason, 13), brought in the drinks.

"[Cadle] caught me in the hallway, offered a cup to me, and you want to try to be a gentleman," McGeehan said. "I had a small sip and walked away and tossed the rest of it."

"I highly doubt raw milk had anything to do with it, in my case," McGeehan said.

According to the Kanwaha-Charleston Health Department, raw milk can contain dangerous bacteria and parasites.

But, supporters say, raw milk has a higher nutritional content and is more ethical.

"I don't think it's any riskier than eating raw oysters or anything like that," McGeehan said.

McGeehan believes the milk you drink is a personal choice.

"There definitely shouldn't be a law against allowing people to do what they want within the framework of the rule of law," McGeehan said. "Just be careful."

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed a similar bill last year.

His spokesperson says he signed this year's version of the bill because it has precautions in place to better protect people's health.

A spokesperson for Governor Tomblin says, as for this incident, it's up to the DHHR to determine what did or did not happen.

Cadle declined an interview request from WSAZ.