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Food Safety and Raw Milk

From the FDA’s website, Nov. 1, 2011


Pasteurization of milk was adopted decades ago as a basic public health measure to kill dangerous bacteria and largely eliminate the risk of getting sick from one of the most important staples of the American diet. In 1987, the agency issued a regulation prohibiting the interstate sale of raw milk. 

In recent years, however, a small number of Americans (less than 1 percent) have rejected pasteurization in favor of raw (or unpasteurized) milk, citing a range of taste, nutritional and health benefits they believe are associated with raw milk consumption, as well as a general preference for unprocessed food. Today, 20 states explicitly prohibit intrastate raw milk sales in some form and 30 allow it.

While the perceived nutritional and health benefits of raw milk consumption have not been scientifically substantiated, the health risks are clear. Since 1987, there have been 143 reported outbreaks of illness – some involving miscarriages, still births, kidney failure and deaths – associated with consumption of raw milk and raw milk products that were contaminated with pathogenic bacteria such as Listeria, Campylobacter, Salmonella, and E. coli. Because E. coli can spread from one child to another, the risk is not just to the one that drank the milk.

As a science-based, public health regulatory agency, FDA strongly supports the application of effective measures, such as pasteurization, to protect the safety of the food supply and maintain public confidence in such important, healthy staples of the diet as milk. 

However, in light of concerns that have been raised about potential FDA actions, we want to remind the public that FDA does not regulate the intrastate sale or distribution of raw milk. Whether to permit the sale and distribution of raw milk within a state is for the state to decide. 

With respect to the interstate sale and distribution of raw milk, the FDA has never taken, nor does it intend to take, enforcement action against an individual who purchased and transported raw milk across state lines solely for his or her own personal consumption.

We urge consumers who purchase raw milk to understand the health risks involved. While raw milk puts all consumers at risk, the elderly, immune-compromised people, children and pregnant women are especially vulnerable to the hazards of raw milk consumption. FDA’s consumer education will continue to focus on helping consumers understand the risk to these populations. 

The FDA’s position on raw milk is in concert with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatricians.

For More Information


Questions & Answers on Raw Milk

Consumer Update: Raw Milk May Pose Health Risk

Food Facts: The Dangers of Raw Milk – Unpasteurized Milk Can Pose a Serious Health Risk

Raw Milk Misconceptions and the Danger of Raw Milk Consumption

Food Safety and Raw Milk from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Milk, Cheese, and Dairy Products from FoodSafety.gov

© Food Safety News
  • http://www.agritrendlab.com Richard Anfuso

    You stated two things in this article I found interesting. First, only 143 people have been reported sick from drinking raw milk in 24 years. That is about six cases per year. I know that the actual number is probably higher and raw milk consumption is low but that still suggests that the risk is extremely low. That surprised me. You also stated that raw milk consumption puts all consumers at risk. No, only raw milk consumers are at risk. Let the health benefits of drinking raw milk over weigh the risk of illness and the consumers of raw milk will take that risk.

  • gene

    raw milk advocates don’t want raw milk from the factory feedlot. they want raw milk from pastured, humanely raised cows.
    if your cows are healthy in the first place, and not all infected from eating corn and soy and stomping around in their own feces at the feedlot, there’s very little milk.
    of COURSE factory feedlot raw milk would be harmful. FDA needs to make the distinction between raw milk from the typical CFO and raw milk from healthy, pastured cows.

  • James Schmidt

    Richard and gene you keep telling yourself that there are added benefits to raw milk, a potentially hazardous food, there isn’t. And it is a public health concern as the diseases that can be transmitted via the milk such as e. coli can then be transferred through human interaction.
    BTW the author stated this is reprinted from the FDA website so it is the FDA saying it.

  • mrothschild

    Richard: To correct several erroneous statements: The FDA reports 143 confirmed outbreaks involving raw milk, not 143 illnesses. Illness caused by fecal contamination is indeed infectious, and can spread from one person to another. As the FDA points out, E. coli can be transmitted by an infected person to another individual who did not consume the contaminated food. There is no scientific evidence of any health benefits to unpasteurized milk, so the decision to drink raw milk should be based on whether the personal preference for its taste outweighs its potential hazards and, as with any food, those marketing the product for profit should not be allowed to make false or misleading claims.

  • mrothschild

    Gene: Cows don’t become infected from eating grains. Grass-fed and feed-lot cows alike, and other ruminants like deer, can naturally carry pathogenic E. coli in their guts. Their intestinal cells lack a receptor for the toxin so they can be perfectly healthy and still shed the pathogen in their feces. Even the best hygiene conditions can’t prevent harmful E. coli from being present in manure, so care must be taken to not get fecal bacteria in the milk.

  • Mary Rothschild

    Richard: To correct several erroneous statements: The FDA reports 143 confirmed outbreaks involving raw milk, not 143 illnesses. Illness caused by fecal contamination is indeed infectious, and can spread from one person to another. As the FDA points out, E. coli can be transmitted by an infected person to another individual who did not consume the contaminated food. There is no scientific evidence of any health benefits to unpasteurized milk, so the decision to drink raw milk should be based on whether the personal preference for its taste outweighs its potential hazards and, as with any food, those marketing the product for profit should not be allowed to make false or misleading claims.

  • http://baumfarm.com rob Baum

    Accord to research from the CDC database there has been 42 cases per year of individuals who have been reported as getting food borne illness from raw milk. If you compare this to the 146 million case per year for other food items that is .0000295 percent. Who in there right mind would even concern themselves with the dangers of raw milk with this low of a percentage. A there is scientific evidence of the benefits of raw milk consider Dr Frances Pottergen and Dr. JR Crew and many more. I have consumed raw milk for 7 years and in that time I have never gotten sick with any colds, flu, virus you name it. FDA and the Dairy Agribusiness are scared to do any new research on raw milk because they are afraid it would ruin their monopoly on the milk business. Learn for yourself the benefits of raw milk and try and then tell me it does not work or its not better. Check out rawmilkfacts.com for starters.

  • Amy

    Raw milk might cause some health problems, that is one thing but the fact that raw milk is a competitor to the big corporate and co-op companies that dominate the milk industry is another.

  • Mary Rothschild

    Gene: Cows don’t become infected from eating grains. Grass-fed and feed-lot cows alike, and other ruminants like deer, can naturally carry pathogenic E. coli in their guts. Their intestinal cells lack a receptor for the toxin so they can be perfectly healthy and still shed the pathogen in their feces. Even the best hygiene conditions can’t prevent harmful E. coli from being present in manure, so care must be taken to not get fecal bacteria in the milk.

  • http://purefoodco.org Sara Sweet

    Scientists at the FDA or in some laboratory are the last people we need telling humanity what food is “good” and what food is “bad.” Raw milk can’t be measured in grams of protein, sugar, fat or vitamins. It’s a living food, more versatile in it’s raw form than any other food I’m aware of. If you’ve ever made cheese, yogurt, butter, or any other dairy product, you know there is a great deal of difference between raw and cooked milk. What food isn’t there a great deal of difference between nutritionally that is cooked vs. raw? But nutrition aside, the real genius in raw milk is that it promotes immunity because it contains microorganisms that stimulate the immune system. Your body is full of bacteria, and must be, or you would die. Let’s stop starving our bodies of naturally occurring, healthy bacteria! A world of sterility only sets the stage for larger, more devastating outbreaks of illness, including antibiotic-resistance and crippled immune systems.

  • Steve

    A BIG question remains — where did the pathogenic E.coli stain 0157:H7 come from? Can this be considered “natural”? And what strain is next on the horizon?
    It seems this super-virulent strain doesn’t appear in our food supply until the 1980′s. It has been directly traced to corn-fed, feed-lot style cattle who are finished off for slaughter on grain after months on pasture. Researchers determined that grain creates severe acid conditions in the gut that became/becomes an incubator for this more virulent acid-resistent strain.
    The fact that grass fed cattle also carry this strain doesn’t negate that feedlot cattle are still responsible for incubating and spreading the virulent source in the environment by eating grains.
    While all cattle and some wildlife are resistant — harmful E. coli can easily colonize their gut whether they eat grains or not because there’s a continuous presence in the environment. Dust and run-off from cattle feeding knee-deep in manure in feedlots all across the country spreads far and wide on the wind, storms, dust storms (lookout Phoenix), etc. Calves inherit same from their mamas. Started by industrial factory farming methods in the 1980s, by now most all cattle are exposed and can be carriers.
    However, just because cattle are resistant doesn’t mean they are healthy — and factory farming methods like feed lots or hormone use for weight gain exacerbate unhealthy conditions. Cattle evolved to eat grasses and for healthy food I’ll choose grass fed (bison!) any day over the industrial varieties… What would be the effects of the de-industrialization of the food supply be, I wonder?
    Finally, there’s the matter of the relatively new practice of feeding cattle huge amounts of the cheaper distillers grains from the ethanol industry — since the major corn supplies are going to feed our fuel tanks instead. Here’s a whole new potential virulent incubation pressure in the bovine gut. As we saw in the contaminated fenugreek seed case in Germany this summer — the E.coli organism is infinitely adaptable– and nasty new virulent strains can suddenly make an appearance — initially confounding our medical and food safety systems we have put in place to deal with them.

  • mrothschild

    Bacteria found in raw milk are not probiotic. Probiotic microorganisms must be non-pathogenic (Teitelbaum and Walker, 2000). In contrast, raw milk can host various human pathogens, including E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, Streptococcus spp. Yersinia enterocolitica, Campylobacter jejuni, Staphylococcus aureus, Listeria monocytogenes, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and Coxiella burnetti to name a few (Oliver et al., 2005; Hayes and Boor, 2001).
    Probiotic microorganisms must be of human origin in order to have an impact on human health (Teitelbaum and Walker, 2000). Bacteria present in raw milk are from infected udder tissues (e.g., mastitis causing bacteria), the dairy environment (e.g., soil, water, and cow manure), and milking equipment. High bacteria counts in raw milk only indicate poor animal health and poor farm hygiene.
    Bacteria in raw milk are typically not of human origin. An exception is Streptococcus pyogenes. S. pyogenes that has adapted to humans can be transmitted to animals. Once S. pyogenes is colonized in animals, it can be re-transmitted to humans as a human pathogen that causes strep throat. For example, S. pyogenes can infect a cow udder to cause mastitis. The infected cow udder can subsequently shed S. pyogenes, a pathogen, into raw milk.
    Bifidobacteria have been mentioned by raw milk advocates as the “good bugs” in raw milk. Bifidobacteria are bacteria commonly found in human and animal gastrointestinal track and they are bacteria that make up the gut flora (Arunachalam, 1999). Since bifidobacteria are found in cow’s GI track, they are present in cow’s fecal matter. Raw milk collected with proper hygiene should not contain bifidobacteria. In fact, the presence of bifidobacteria in raw milk indicates fecal contamination and poor farm hygiene (Beerens et al., 2000; Beerens and Neut, 2005).
    source: http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/Product-SpecificInformation/MilkSafety/ConsumerInformationAboutMilkSafety/ucm247991.htm

  • http://purefood.org Sara

    The idea that the bacteria in raw milk is not beneficial to humans or that all bacteria in raw milk comes from fecal contamination is inaccurate.
    Insignificant environmental contamination actually can improve immunity too, but that is not the same benefit gained from health bacteria like Lactobacillus casei that is present in raw milk in abundance. This component is partly what allows raw milk to ferment with age while pasteurized milk rots.
    If you need scientific presentation of this fact, check out the documented data presented at http://www.raw-milk-facts.com/raw_milk_health_benefits.html
    Still, we don’t need science to verify what people have known for centuries – the growth of beneficial bacteria found in raw milk produces a variety of nourishing foods including cheese, kefir and cultured cream products. Some dairy creations benefit from additional added cultures and some are made with just what’s already present in the raw milk. The quality of cultured products made with raw milk is much higher than that of pasteurized milk, and ultra-heated milk doesn’t even culture (this is probably more a result of proteins and sugars are so destroyed they are not a recognizable or usable source of food to the bacteria – I wonder if our bodies even know it’s supposed to be food). The normal acidification of raw milk from beneficial bacteria as a great aid in cultured dairy products.
    If you’ve used raw milk as a real food and explored it capabilities, you already know it’s full of components that nourish our bodies and appetites! Almost all dairy products rely on the culturing process, which means growth of good bacteria in the product. Our American culture is so afraid of bacteria we forget how wonderful bacteria can be!
    We haven’t even discussed the benefits of bovine colostrum in raw milk that promote immunity through immunoglobulins, neutrophils and macrophages, which secrete a range of immune-related components into milk. That’s a topic for another time!

  • mrothschild

    There are no immunoglobulins in raw milk that enhance the human immune system.
    The concentration of immunoglobulins in bovine milk is low, typically about 0.6-1.0 mg/ml (Hurley, 2003). At these low concentrations, bovine immunoglobulins, when consumed directly from milk, are physiologically insignificant to humans (Fox, 2003).
    The predominant fraction of immunoglobulins in bovine milk is IgG (about 85-90%). IgG is quite heat stable. In one study, LTLT pasteurization (63°C for 30 min) had no impact on the level of IgG, and HTST pasteurization (72°C/15s) resulted in only 1% denaturation of IgG (Mainer et al., 1997).
    Kulczychi (1987) hypothesized that the heat-aggregated immunoglobulins may actually have better immunological function because aggregation can amplify the binding affinity of IgG to receptor sites.
    References:
    Fox, P. F. 2003. Milk proteins: general and historical aspects, p. 1-48. In P. F. Fox and P. L. H. McSweeney (ed.), Advanced Dairy Chemistry. Volume 1. Proteins. Part A, Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, New York.
    Hurley, W. L. 2003. Immunoglobulins in mammary secretions, p. 422-447. In P. F. Fox and P. L. H. McSweeney (ed.), Advanced Dairy Chemistry. Volume 1. Proteins. Part A, Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, New York.
    Kulczycki, A. J. 1987. Bovine IgG can aggregate at conditions simulating pasteurization and binds to some human Fcγ recetpors. Molecular Immunology. 24:259-266.
    Mainer, G., L. Sanchez, J. M. Ena, and M. Calvo. 1997. Kinetic and thermodynamic parameters for heat denaturation of bovine milk IgG, IgA and IgM. Journal of Food Science. 62:1034-1038.
    source:http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/Product-SpecificInformation/MilkSafety/ConsumerInformationAboutMilkSafety/ucm247991.htm

  • Mary Rothschild

    Bacteria found in raw milk are not probiotic. Probiotic microorganisms must be non-pathogenic (Teitelbaum and Walker, 2000). In contrast, raw milk can host various human pathogens, including E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, Streptococcus spp. Yersinia enterocolitica, Campylobacter jejuni, Staphylococcus aureus, Listeria monocytogenes, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and Coxiella burnetti to name a few (Oliver et al., 2005; Hayes and Boor, 2001).
    Probiotic microorganisms must be of human origin in order to have an impact on human health (Teitelbaum and Walker, 2000). Bacteria present in raw milk are from infected udder tissues (e.g., mastitis causing bacteria), the dairy environment (e.g., soil, water, and cow manure), and milking equipment. High bacteria counts in raw milk only indicate poor animal health and poor farm hygiene.
    Bacteria in raw milk are typically not of human origin. An exception is Streptococcus pyogenes. S. pyogenes that has adapted to humans can be transmitted to animals. Once S. pyogenes is colonized in animals, it can be re-transmitted to humans as a human pathogen that causes strep throat. For example, S. pyogenes can infect a cow udder to cause mastitis. The infected cow udder can subsequently shed S. pyogenes, a pathogen, into raw milk.
    Bifidobacteria have been mentioned by raw milk advocates as the “good bugs” in raw milk. Bifidobacteria are bacteria commonly found in human and animal gastrointestinal track and they are bacteria that make up the gut flora (Arunachalam, 1999). Since bifidobacteria are found in cow’s GI track, they are present in cow’s fecal matter. Raw milk collected with proper hygiene should not contain bifidobacteria. In fact, the presence of bifidobacteria in raw milk indicates fecal contamination and poor farm hygiene (Beerens et al., 2000; Beerens and Neut, 2005).
    source: http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/Product-SpecificInformation/MilkSafety/ConsumerInformationAboutMilkSafety/ucm247991.htm

  • Mary Rothschild

    There are no immunoglobulins in raw milk that enhance the human immune system.
    The concentration of immunoglobulins in bovine milk is low, typically about 0.6-1.0 mg/ml (Hurley, 2003). At these low concentrations, bovine immunoglobulins, when consumed directly from milk, are physiologically insignificant to humans (Fox, 2003).
    The predominant fraction of immunoglobulins in bovine milk is IgG (about 85-90%). IgG is quite heat stable. In one study, LTLT pasteurization (63°C for 30 min) had no impact on the level of IgG, and HTST pasteurization (72°C/15s) resulted in only 1% denaturation of IgG (Mainer et al., 1997).
    Kulczychi (1987) hypothesized that the heat-aggregated immunoglobulins may actually have better immunological function because aggregation can amplify the binding affinity of IgG to receptor sites.
    References:
    Fox, P. F. 2003. Milk proteins: general and historical aspects, p. 1-48. In P. F. Fox and P. L. H. McSweeney (ed.), Advanced Dairy Chemistry. Volume 1. Proteins. Part A, Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, New York.
    Hurley, W. L. 2003. Immunoglobulins in mammary secretions, p. 422-447. In P. F. Fox and P. L. H. McSweeney (ed.), Advanced Dairy Chemistry. Volume 1. Proteins. Part A, Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, New York.
    Kulczycki, A. J. 1987. Bovine IgG can aggregate at conditions simulating pasteurization and binds to some human Fcγ recetpors. Molecular Immunology. 24:259-266.
    Mainer, G., L. Sanchez, J. M. Ena, and M. Calvo. 1997. Kinetic and thermodynamic parameters for heat denaturation of bovine milk IgG, IgA and IgM. Journal of Food Science. 62:1034-1038.
    source:http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/Product-SpecificInformation/MilkSafety/ConsumerInformationAboutMilkSafety/ucm247991.htm

  • Sara

    “Bovine colostrum is identical in molecular structure to the colostrum of humans. Many human health benefits have been attributed to bovine colostrum including: increased energy levels, lower risks of upper respiratory illnesses, reduced risk of intestinal damage from anti-inflammatory drugs, increased ability of the body to burn fat and increase muscle, acceleration of injury healing, and increased vitality and stamina. Bovine colostrum is also believed to have significant anti-aging properties and is seen to promote longevity. Three recent studies have supported the beneficial effects of bovine colostrum.”
    Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/022851.html#ixzz1cl8OVvre
    Do you see why scientific data in all it’s conflict is insufficient to prove “facts” – especially about health and nutrition? You can find “data” to support whatever you want to claim, and keep the money in the pocket of whatever industry is funding that research.
    Nutritional science gave us margarine, a “scientific feat” of nutrition which proved later to create the very health problems is claimed to prevent. If you want scientific data to define your health, go for it, but I refuse rely on the tides of scientific ‘nutritionism’ as a compass. Let’s rely instead on time proven “facts” of traditional food preparation and cultures who knew what they were doing long before science weighed in with all their controversy.
    The Japanese didn’t need scientists to teach them how to change an indigestible soybean into a highly digestible tofu, traditional culture did that. Traditional cultures created diets that sustained life and promoted health for centuries and many relied on raw milk as a staple in their diet. Why is it that so many people believe we now need science to save mankind from something that is largely responsible for the perpetuation of mankind!
    If sloppy dairy farms want to raise a cheap and potentially dangerous food and rely on pasteurization to clean up their mess, fine. But for those with the know-how and ability to properly produce and consume raw milk, there is no need for another “scientific feat.”