July 15, 2018

CDC: Raw Milk 150 Times More Likely to Cause Outbreaks

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) just issued a press release stating that a report shows the rate of outbreaks caused by unpasteurized, or raw milk products is 150 times higher than outbreaks linked to pasteurized milk.

Brucella raw milkThe study, titled “Nonpasteurized Dairy Products, Disease Outbreaks, and State Laws–United States” will be published in the CDC Journal Emerging Infectious Diseases. It reviewed dairy product outbreaks from 1993 to 2006 in all 50 states. The amount of all milk produced during that time period was 2.7 trillion pounds. The amount of raw milk produced during that period is estimated at 27 billion pounds, or 1% of the total milk produced.

During that time frame, 121 dairy-related foodborne illness outbreaks caused 4,413 illnesses, 239 hospitalizations and three deaths. In 60% of the outbreaks, raw milk products were determined to be the cause. In 200 of the 239 hospitalizations, the patient consumed raw milk. Seventy-five percent of the raw milk outbreaks occurred in the 21 states where raw milk sales are legal.

The report states that, “consumers can’t tell if raw milk is safe to drink by looking at, smelling, or tasting it. Even under ideal conditions of cleanliness, collecting milk introduces some bacteria. Unless the milk is pasteurized, these bacteria can multiply and grow in the milk and cause illness.”

Robert Tauxe, M.D., M.P.H., deputy director of the CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases (DFWED) said, “This study shows an association between state laws and the number of outbreaks and illnesses from raw milk products. Restricting the sale of raw milk products is likely to reduce the number of outbreaks and can help keep people healthier. The states that allow sale of raw milk will probably continue to see outbreaks in the future.”

The study showed that most of the victims of raw milk outbreaks were under the age of 20, and those people had more severe illnesses. When ages were known, 60% of the patients were under the age of 20 in the raw milk outbreaks, compared to 23% in outbreaks caused by pasteurized products. Also, 13% of patients in the raw milk outbreaks were hospitalized, compared to 1% in pasteurized milk outbreaks. Raw milk outbreaks tend to be caused by bacteria which produce more severe illnesses.

The study’s co-author, Dr. Barbara Mahon, deputy chief of the CDC’s DFWED Enteric Diseases Epidemiology Branch said, “While some people think that raw milk has more health benefits than pasteurized milk, this study shows that raw milk has great risks, especially for children, who experience more severe illnesses if they get sick. Parents who have lived through the experience of watching their child fight for their life after drinking raw milk now say that it’s just not worth the risk.”

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