Dr. Robert Tauxe, deputy director of the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases, sent a letter to state public health departments, asking them place more restrictions on the sales of raw milk. The letter also asked those agencies to stress the dangers of consuming raw milk. In fact, public health experts say that pasteurization is one of science’s most effective food safety interventions.
Dr. Tauxe stresses the fact that raw milk and raw cheese caused 82% of all dairy-related outbreaks between the years 1973 and 2009. The CDC investigated 93 outbreaks linked to raw milk and raw milk products between 1998 and 2009. Those outbreaks caused 1,837 illnesses, 195 hospitalizations and 2 deaths. The CDC data shows the rate of raw milk outbreaks is higher in states where the sale of raw milk is legal than in states where the sale of raw milk is illegal.
The letter states, “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.” It continues, “adherence to good hygienic practices during milking can reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of milk contamination. pasteurization is the only way to ensure that fluid milk products do not contain harmful bacteria.”
At this time, 30 states allow for some form of raw milk sale or production. Eighteen states completely prohibit raw milk sales, and 17 states permit sales directly from the farm to consumers. The remaining states allow off-farm sales. Some farmers get around the prohibition by labeling their milk “not for human consumption”. Herd shares are another way raw milk producers circumvent the law.
The CDC has recently updated their web site on raw milk, with information for consumers and related resources. The page includes links to information on the bacteria that raw milk carries, including Brucella, Campylobacter, Salmonella, Shigella, and E. coli. In addition, stories from people who consumed raw milk and were sickened by it are highlighted.