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Raw Milk is Ongoing Hazard, CDC Warns Public Health Workers

Last week, the U.S. Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention sent a letter to state and territorial public health officials with information and resources on the risks of consuming raw milk and other unpasteurized dairy products.

Raw milk is a recognized source of severe infections from pathogens such as E. coli O157, Campylobacter and Salmonella, but pasteurization prevents infections.

“Adherence to good hygienic practices during milking can reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of milk contamination,” states the May 9 letter signed by Dr. Robert Tauxe, deputy director of CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases. “Pasteurization is the only way to ensure that fluid milk products do not contain harmful bacteria.”

It’s not just CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommending that all animal milk be pasteurized. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Practitioners, the American Veterinary Medical Association and the National Association of Public Health Veterinarians agree.

Pasteurization of milk became routine in the U.S. starting in the 1920s and was widespread by 1950. Transporting raw milk across state lines to sell directly to consumers is prohibited today, but it is available within many states.

“CDC data shows that the rate of raw milk-associated outbreaks is 2.2 times higher in states in which the sale of raw milk is legal compared with states where sale of raw milk is illegal,” reads Tauxe’s letter.

According to the CDC National Outbreak Reporting System, between 2007 and 2012, there were 81 outbreaks of infections due to consumption of raw milk, resulting in 979 illnesses. In addition, 59 percent of the outbreaks involved at least one person under the age of five.

Most infections were caused by Campylobacter, Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, or Salmonella bacteria, which come from cattle that appear healthy. Severe, long-term consequences of these infections include hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which can result in kidney failure, and Guillan-Barré syndrome, which can result in paralysis.

“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,” Tauxe wrote.

Click here to read the full letter and see the list of resources for consumers,  public health officials and health care providers.

© Food Safety News
  • bachcole

    CDC is a medical doctor institution. Medical doctors have no training in nutrition and holistic health building. Thank you CDC for you statistics about the incidence of food-borne disease, but your ignorance about building health with food disqualifies you from being an authority figure about raw milk.

  • wolframium

    @bachole: MD’s and DO’s have training in nutrition. It is silly to say otherwise. Can you please provide evidence on how unpasteurized/raw milk can “build health?” Also, please cite scientific literature and not blogs, health websites, or other similar journalistic sources.

    If you wish to drink raw milk that is fine with me but to say that it is somehow curative or medicinal sounds like nonsense and I believe the scientific literature supports that argument.

    Thanks and I look forward to your citations.

    • bachcole

      The so-called scientific literature is limited to extremely expensive studies that profits from raw milk will not support. If you limit your epistemology to double-blind, crossover, randomized studies, then we have nothing to say to each other.

      My son’s allergies are non-existent when he drinks raw milk and come on like gang busters in the Spring when he does not drink raw milk.

      And MD’s and most DO’s are ignoramuses when it comes to nutrition, and MD’s actively discount the importance of nutrition, mostly because they have no training in it and cannot make any money off of it.

  • bachcole
  • bachcole
    • wolframium

      Your first citation, next to last sentence: “However, on the basis of current knowledge, raw milk consumption cannot be recommended because it might contain pathogens.”

      Your second citation, 3rd from last sentence: “However, raw milk may contain pathogens such as salmonella or EHEC, and its consumption may therefore imply serious health risks.”

      Your third citation: I will concede that persons born and raised in farm/rural environments are more likely to have exposure to farm animals and associated microbes. This study doesn’t come close to teasing out that the differences seen were due to boiled/unboiled milk or other farm/rural related exposures.

      I also note that the third citation has numerous MD’s as authors (didn’t pay attention to the others). If an MD has “no training in nutrition” and are “ignoramuses” then why are you citing sources with them as authors?

      Many MD’s make money off of nutrition, I see books and stuff all the time and I’m not usually even looking.

  • J T

    Go research the dangers of HOMOGENIZATION. That is the process that really makes milk harmful, regardless of where you stand on raw vs pasteurized. Homogenization serves NO safety function, but does render the milk injurious to health.