The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent a letter to state health officials Wednesday outlining the dangers of raw milk consumption, and urged state lawmakers to consider further regulating raw milk sales.
The letter stresses the fact that unpasteurized milk is likely to harbor foodborne pathogens such as E. coli, Campylobacter and Salmonella, which are shed in animal feces and can contaminate milk during milking.
Raw milk and cheese were responsible for 82 percent of dairy-related outbreaks between 1973 and 2009, it points out. Between 1998 and 2009, CDC recorded 93 outbreaks linked to raw milk or products made from raw milk. Together these outbreaks caused 1,837 illnesses, 195 hospitalizations and 2 deaths.
“Pasteurization is the only way to ensure that fluid milk products do not contain harmful bacteria,” says the letter, penned by penned by Dr. Robert Tauxe, Deputy Director of the CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases.
While the federal government outlawed interstate sales of unpasteurized milk in 1987, rules governing in-state sales widely from state to state. Right now, 18 states prohibit raw milk sales entirely, while 17 allow only direct sales from farms to consumers. The remaining 16 states permit off-farm sales, some only at farmers markets and some at retail stores.
A study released by CDC in February showed that three quarters of dairy-related outbreaks between 1993 and 2006 occurred in states where raw milk sales were legal at the time.
“To protect the health of the public, state regulators should continue to support pasteurization and consider further restricting or prohibiting the sale and distribution of raw milk and other unpasteurized dairy products in their states,” advises the letter.
Rules regarding raw milk are often hotly debated. Legislative bodies in 11 states are currently sitting on proposals to amend raw milk regulations, either to make them stricter or more liberal. Earlier this year, Indiana passed a law requiring unpasteurized milk to be labeled as “not fit for human consumption.” Bills pushing to relax raw milk restrictions have been introduced in Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma and Wisconsin.
The letter encourages recipients to pass its contents on to colleagues and others concerned with issues surrounding raw milk safety.© Food Safety News