Over the last few years I have tried to bring some level of rationality to the debate over the consumption of raw milk.  I first publisheda summary of the findings of a review of peer-reviewed literature on the topic of the “pros” of the consumption of raw milk on my blog. Several people from both sides of the raw milk debate have told me that the “pros” review is one of the most comprehensive compilations of peer-reviewed literature examining the potential benefits of raw milk beyond basic nutrition.  I then posted about the “cons.”

What about the “cons?”

As I said, the overwhelming “con” of drinking raw milk according to the literature relates to food safety hazards. Below are the realities of those “cons.”

I would ask the proponents of raw milk consumption – small dairy farmers trying to make a buck; retailers trying to make even more; the Weston A. Price Association; the Complete Patient; people who believe that drinking raw milk cures everything from asthma to autism and eczema to erectile dysfunction; to policy makers considering allowing the sales of raw milk – to PLEASE read the above-linked pros and cons as well as, “Comparing the Food Safety Record of Pasteurized and Raw Milk Products.”  Then, to read what happened to consumers who became ill during foodborne illness outbreaks traced to the consumption of raw milk, and watch the below videos.

Organic Pastures

Chris Martin, then age seven, developed an E. coli O157:H7 infection in September 2006 following the consumption of raw milk produced by Organic Pastures.  He was hospitalized beginning on September 8, suffering from severe gastrointestinal symptoms, including bloody diarrhea.  Shortly thereafter, he developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).  In an effort to properly treat his rapidly deteriorating condition, Chris was moved to multiple medical facilities, twice by life-flight.  His HUS was remarkably severe, marked by prolonged renal failure, pancreatitis, and severe cardiac involvement. He required 18 days of renal replacement therapy. On two occasions his cardiac problems became so severe that he was placed on a ventilator. At several junctures, the possibility that he might not survive was very real.  He was hospitalized through November 2, after incurring over $550,000 in medical bills.  Renal experts have opined that Chris is likely to develop severe renal complications in the future. These complications include end stage renal disease (ESRD) and kidney transplant.

Herb Depot/Autum Olives Farms

Larry Pedersen had just turned one year old when he developed an E. coli O157:H7 infection in May of 2008. When his diarrhea turned bloody, his parents took him for medical treatment. He was admitted to the hospital on May 8.  Shortly thereafter, Larry developed HUS and was transferred to a specialty care facility.  As is typical in patients with HUS, Larry was suffering from acute renal failure. He was started on dialysis, which was necessary at that point for his survival. He required 15 days of dialysis before his kidneys recovered enough to function on their own. Larry was discharged on May 29, to continue recovery and treatment on an outpatient basis. The medical bills associated with his care approached $90,000. As the result of damage to his kidneys suffered during his bout with HUS, Larry is at significant risk for severe renal complications in the future. These complications include ESRD and kidney transplant.

Nicole Riggs developed an E. coli O157:H7 infection in May 2008 from consumption of raw goat’s milk. She was nine years old at the time. Nicole suffered from symptoms typical of E. coli O157:H7 infections – bloody diarrhea, cramping, and nausea – that quickly intensified and led to her hospitalization on May 8, 2008. Once hospitalized, Nicole developed renal failure, anemia, and thrombocytopenia (low platelet count) indicating that she was developing HUS. She was transferred to a Children’s hospital and started on dialysis in order to save her life. She received dialysis for 18 days. Nicole’s renal function slowly returned to the point that she was deemed healthy enough for discharge on June 1. After discharge, she remained under the care of a nephrologist.  In addition, damage suffered during her HUS has required that her gall bladder be removed. Medical costs to this point exceed $180,000. As the result of damage to her kidneys suffered during her bout with HUS, Nicole is at significant risk for severe renal complications in the future.

Alexandre EcoDairy Farm

Mari Tardiff was one of those sickened in the 2008 outbreak of Campylobacter connected to raw milk sold by Alexandre EcoDairy Farm. As a result of her Campylobacter infection, Mari developed Guillain Barr√© syndrome, or GBS, a potentially fatal inflammatory disorder.  GBS is an infrequent, but well-known risk associated with Campylobacter infection.  By the time she was hospitalized in mid-June, Mari was essentially paralyzed. On June 15, she was intubated and placed on mechanical ventilation.  For weeks on end, Mari’s condition remained unchanged.  She was heavily sedated, unable to move, and entirely dependent on mechanical ventilation for survival.  In August, there were indications of slight improvement, and the very slow process of weaning Mari off mechanical ventilation began. At the outset, it was not clear that the process was successful.  Through incredible effort on Mari’s part, she was fully weaned off mechanical ventilation by August 20, and discharged to a rehabilitation facility.  She spent more than two months at the rehabilitation facility diligently attempting to re-acquire the ability to speak, breathe, and move her arms and legs on her own. She was discharged home on November 1, still in need of essentially 24-hour care.  Since that time, she has worked every day toward achieving her goal, as yet unreached, of walking again.  Medical expenses to date exceed $1,000,000.

Whole Foods and Simsbury Town Farm Dairy

Kalee Prue, a 27-year-old mother of one, became infected with E. coli O157:NM in June 2008, as the result of consumption of raw milk. Her symptoms began in early July, and intensified for several days. On two occasions, Kalee sought treatment in the emergency room. On July 12, it became apparent that she was developing HUS. She was then admitted to the hospital on July 13. Kalee’s renal failure was complete and prolonged, and she required plasmapharesis from July 13 through August 11. Severe anemia necessitated repeated transfusions with packed red blood cells as well. By the time she was released from the hospital on August 14, she had incurred over $230,000 in medical bills. Kalee has not recovered full renal function. She is at severe risk for long-term renal complications, including ESRD, dialysis, and transplant.

  • rickdog

    You have given a handful of anecdotal stories on severe illnesses caused by raw milk consumption. You can do this for ANY segment of our food supply. Thousands of people get seriously ill and die from lettuce to beef to raw milk to peanuts. Anecdotal evidence should never be taken seriously.

  • I agree it is important that consumers be fully informed of the risks and rewards of consuming wholesome foods, such as raw milk. However, please be careful about claiming any or all of these illnesses were actually proven to be attributed to the consumption of raw milk. Further, please be careful to understand the difference between the risk of raw milk and the risk associated with poor food handling practices, which occur after the milk is harvested and can happen to absolutely any food, pasteurized or not. The proven benefit of raw milk vs. pasteurized milk in this respect is that the beneficial bacteria present in raw milk can limit or even cease the continued growth of some dangerous bacteria. Pasteurized milk cannot do this because all the beneficial bacteria is killed with the bad bacteria.

  • AprilbCollins

    You have to be kidding. These are 3 (possibly 2) Isolated incidents, (the first not even definite according to your own article) related to raw milk. Over the course of several years. I don’t know that raw milk is the cure-all society is looking for, but the benefits far outweigh the risks. Raw spinach is a hugely important source of iron and dietary fiber for most of the world, and it made far more people just as sick. Is it possible that if more people drank raw milk more would get sick? NO. If raw milk were commercially available it would be subject to the same standards that pasteurizing dairies face. There would have to be a regulatory system to ensure safety, the money would be available from the consumers to test the milk before shipping. Stop pushing cons that aren’t proven. I don’t think the “pro” side should push benefits that aren’t proven, but I won’t stop drinking raw milk until you can give me a far better argument than this.

  • Lawzius Moda

    Is there science here?
    Please take note of the following quotes from each story. Read them slowly and carefully. Consider to yourself why such highlighted statements are deeply relevant. Dis-cover the truth of why these individuals experienced what they did. Uncover actual causes….
    Chris Martin: “He was hospitalized beginning on September 8, suffering from severe gastrointestinal symptoms, including bloody diarrhea. Shortly thereafter, he developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).”
    Larry Pederson: “When his diarrhea turned bloody, his parents took him for medical treatment. He was admitted to the hospital on May 8. Shortly thereafter, Larry developed HUS and was transferred to a specialty care facility.”
    Nicole Riggs: “Once hospitalized, Nicole developed renal failure, anemia, and thrombocytopenia (low platelet count) indicating that she was developing HUS.”
    Mari Tardiff (from the full article): “Mari went to an emergency room, where tests were ordered and abdominal X-rays were taken. The doctors could not, however, determine what was wrong with her. So, on Friday, Peter took Mari to see a neurologist. The results of an MRI were normal; nonetheless, the neurologist raised a frightening possibility: Guillain-Barré syndrome, a potentially fatal inflammatory disorder.” (Note that this article did not detail her “tests”, although just x-rays and MRI alone are documented to cause drastic cellular disruptions).
    Kalee Prue: “On two occasions, Kalee sought treatment in the emergency room. On July 12, it became apparent that she was developing HUS.”
    We are inundated by vernacular such as “health-care” and “treatment”. I’ve studied the mode and action of living microcosmic agents (including so-called pathogens). Is it not plainly evident (genuine researchers) that such living organisms feed upon septic tissue and decaying cells?
    Prominent scientists have discovered that many of the so-called pathogens can easily be found and isolated in completely healthy individuals. Why is it that such people are not manifesting symptoms of organ failure or bacterial overload?
    Yet, these agents reveal themselves en mass when individuals experience dramatic breakdowns of organ and glandular systems through inundation of chemical and/or synthetic compound exposure. That is because such living agents do not feed upon healthy viable tissue. They decompose dead tissue by their very nature. They actually perform this precise function. Therefore, we should naturally expect to discover such agents in the presence of cellular degeneration.
    Hospital settings are synonymous with kidney, heart, lung, brain & pancreas degeneration/failure.
    Because, once humans enter the monolithic “health-care” realm, their bodies (in need of genuine rest and nourishment) are tampered with via volatile chemicals, antibiotics, cutting-splicing-removing, blood/fluid draining, radiation, synthetic compounds, electromagnetic disruptions, artificial implants, and on, and on, and on. The cumulative effect of such treatments (even just one of the above) can be substantial and devastating to an individual.
    Just know that artificial destruction to the body (as pointed out here) shall never be reported as the cause. Bacteria will always be the scapegoat, so that you and I may always enjoy the beautiful, perpetual smokescreen.

  • Marco Deepak

    Lawzius Moda, really well said!!

  • Did these people actually get sick from raw milk? Who knows? With the media and government twisting of facts is expected. What I can relay is my personal experience with raw cows milk. I have been consuming raw cows milk for 14 years from different sources througout the country due to my extensive traveling through herd shares. I have never been ill from raw milk. To date since drinking it I have reversed acid wear on my front teeth which I had since @ the age of 18. I have not had a cavity since consuming it. I am told I look 10 years younger than my age of 48. I have more stamina and strength now than when I was in my twenties. I am just now beginning to gray at the temples which is amazing since I am predisposed to premature graying according to family history. Skin is extremely soft and I never need to moisterize. I could go on since the benefits seem to be countless. Please let me reiterate that 14 years is a very long time to consume such a “dangerous” source of nutrition through differnt sources while reaping such rewards.

  • Srini

    My childhood was in India.
    Raw milk was supplied to our home when I was growing up.
    Many people I know drank raw milk.
    When I visited my grand parents in my village, raw milk was consumed.
    I did not hear any one taken to a doctor for falling sick after drinking raw milk.
    Gandhi drank raw goat milk,he did not become ill due it.
    There is no ecoli in raw milk. It might have gotten in due to unhygenic handling or milking.
    I will drink raw milk from an organic cow or goat. Just clean the udder and collect the milk in a clean container.
    You got my email. Please post the response here.

  • Le Hunt

    How blind these people are to the dangers of raw milk and how willing to risk the lives of their children for some purported health claims. Talk about being in denial. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

  • bob the non raw milk drinker

    what a load of shit. seriously dramatised anti-raw milk bs. none of these show that it was raw milk that was produced, collected and distributed with the highest standards you would expect of say pasteurized milk.
    “connected to raw milk sold by Alexandre EcoDairy Farm.” – whatdoes that even mean?
    maybe this person contracted the disease as her water supply was connected to the mains which is in the ground which is dirty……….seriously, get some facts in this article instead of drama.