October 19, 2018

TN Health Officials Warn of Raw Milk Dangers

Consumers searching for natural foods shouldn’t be duped into thinking raw milk is a safe choice, say Tennessee health officials.  Unpasteurized milk can harbor dangerous bacteria that can cause life-threatening illness. Raw milk can be contaminated with E. coli, Campylobacter, Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, and brucella bacteria. There is no way to know if the milk is safe to drink or not.

“It’s true many people grew up on farms and drank raw milk from their cows and goats with no ill effects,”said John Dunn, DVM, MPH, director of foodborne disease prevention services for the Tennessee Department of Health. Dunn  “It’s also true others weren’t as lucky, swallowing bacteria-laden milk that did great harm. Pasteurization destroys dangerous microorganisms without substantially altering the taste or nutritive value of milk.”

MilkInfants, young children, pregnant women, seniors and those with weakened immune systems are at the greatest risks of serious health complications if they consume raw milk or products made from raw milk such as cheese, ice cream or yogurt.

“In 2013, we had one outbreak of nine children in Tennessee becoming extremely ill after drinking raw milk, with five of those requiring hospitalization and three developing severe, life-threatening kidney problems,”said Dunn. In that outbreak, E. coli 0157 in their raw milk put those children’s lives at risk.”

The children with kidney problems had hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a potentially fatal complication of E.coli infections in children. Treatment for HUS, which causes kidney failure, includes dialysis, blood transfusions and  a possible kidney transplant in the future.

In Tennessee, the sale of raw milk is illegal, but some people use cow share or goat share programs as a way around the law. That was the case in the 2013 outbreak which was linked to a cow share program at McBee Dairy Farm in Mascot, Tennessee.

“Some sellers tout cleanliness of their dairy operation or the health of their livestock, but the simple fact is all raw milk contains bacteria that pasteurization would destroy,” Dunn said. “Your best choice for healthy, nutritious milk is the pasteurized kind you find in grocery stores and markets. Choosing raw milk instead can be one of the unhealthiest decisions you make for yourself or your family.”

 

 

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