July 24, 2024

CDC: Raw Milk Remains an Ongoing Public Health Hazard

Raw milk remains an ongoing public health hazard, says Robert Tauxe, M.D., deputy director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases.  On May 9, Tauxe sent a letter to state epidemiologists and state public health veterinarians saying because of the risks of raw milk, public health officials should consider restricting or prohibiting the sale of raw milk. Almost two years ago, Tauxe sent a nearly identical letter to state public health professionals.

Raw milkBoth letters outline the risks associated with raw milk. For example, infections from E.coli can lead to hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) which causes kidney failure. Campylobacter infections can trigger Guillain-Barré Syndrome, which causes paralysis. Between 2007 and 2012 most of raw milk outbreaks ere caused by E.coli or Campylobacter.  And almost 60 percent of them involved at least one child who was 5 years old or younger.

Although most raw milk outbreaks go unreported, according to Tauxe, between 2007 and 2012, there were 81 raw milk outbreaks that sickened 979 people, hospitalizing 73 of them. Most of the outbreaks, 81 percent, occurred in states where raw milk sales are legal.

Raw milk is risky because a cow’s anus is close to her udders. The bacteria that cause these serious and deadly illnesses are completely invisible to the human eye. In fact, it takes just 10 E. coli O157:H7 bacteria to make someone sick.  Bacteria also live on the animal’s skin, and can be in the bedding and on processing equipment.

Illnesses can occur from the same farm that sold milk to people who didn’t get sick for years. The bacteria cluster in tiny droplets in the milk. One bottle out of hundreds could contain pathogens. Negative tests do not prove the milk is safe. Tests do not always detect low levels of contamination, and it’s impossible to test every single drop of milk to make sure it is free from pathogens.



  1. Beth Briczinski says

    Is there a copy of the 2014 letter available online? The hyperlink in the article doesn’t seem to be working.

    Thank you.

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