Posted by: foodbuglady | February 21, 2012

Raw Milk Consumption A Risky Proposition – CDC

“Consumption of nonpasteurized dairy products cannot be considered safe under any circumstances.”

- US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Less than 1% of dairy products consumed in the USA is unpasteurized. Yet consumption of unpasteurized dairy products – mainly milk and cheese – accounted for 60% of dairy-associated disease outbreaks between 1993 and 2006, according to a report released today by the CDC.

The risk of illness linked specifically to drinking raw milk was even more glaring; 80% of fluid milk-related disease outbreaks were associated with unpasteurized milk.

Disease outbreaks traced to unpasteurized dairy products also were more likely to result in hospitalization (13% of victims hospitalized) versus those associated with pasteurized dairy products (1% hospitalization rate).

Campylobacter, one of the two most common causes of bacterial foodborne disease, was responsible for more than 54% of the outbreaks involving unpasteurized milk and cheese.  Only 13% of the outbreaks associated with pasteurized dairy products involved Campylobacter.

Of the 4,413 confirmed dairy-product associated illnesses reported during the 1993-2006 period, 1,571 (~36%) were linked to unpasteurized milk and cheese consumption, even though less than 1% of milk drinkers who responded to a 2005-2006 survey reported that they usually consumed raw milk.

And legalizing the sale or distribution of raw milk is not the answer to improving its safety. States in which the sale and distribution of raw milk was permitted experienced higher rates of unpasteurized dairy product-associated disease than states where its distribution was illegal.

The risk of illness that is assumed – often unwittingly – by those who choose to drink unpasteurized milk is underscored by the recent 4-state outbreak of Campylobacter illnesses that were traced unequivocally to raw milk produced and supplied by The Family Cow dairy farm in Pennsylvania. Seventy-seven people were sickened in that outbreak at last report.

The final paragraph of the CDC report says it all:

“Our analysis shows that legal intrastate sale of nonpasteurized dairy products is associated with a higher risk for dairy-related outbreaks and implies that restricting sale of nonpasteurized dairy products reduces the risk for dairy-related outbreaks within that state. Pasteurization is the most reliable and feasible way to render dairy products safe for consumption. Although warning labels and signs or government-issued permits are prudent where the sale of nonpasteurized dairy products is legal, they have not been shown to be effective and, given the results of this analysis, do not seem to reduce the incidence of outbreaks involving nonpasteurized dairy products to the degree that pasteurization does. Whether certain types of warnings or more explicit health advisories might be more effective than others is unknown. Public health officials at all levels should continue to develop innovative methods to educate consumers and caregivers about the dangers associated with nonpasteurized dairy products. State officials should consider further restricting or prohibiting the sale or distribution of nonpasteurized dairy products within their states. Federal and state regulators should continue to enforce existing regulations to prevent distribution of nonpasteurized dairy products to consumers. Consumption of nonpasteurized dairy products cannot be considered safe under any circumstances.”

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Responses

  1. [...] più appropriati in caso di contagio ed epidemie – giustifica il proprio allarme con dati statistici. Anche se solo l’1% degli americani consuma latte crudo o prodotti caseari non pastorizzati, [...]

  2. Hi foodbuglady – I have no problem with your point and with the general point of the CDC article. I just don’t think we should continue to describe things as SAFE when we know they are not – it is credibility destructive.

    I hope you are following the oxycontin story with which I had close experience. There is a drug that was approved as “safe and effective” and a close relative of mine was prescribed that drug and getting off it was hell. If FDA and Health Canada had not approved it, it would not ever gotten onto the market.

  3. “Less than 1% of dairy products consumed in the USA is unpasteurized. Yet consumption of unpasteurized dairy products – mainly milk and cheese – accounted for 60% of dairy-associated disease outbreaks between 1993 and 2006, according to a report released today by the CDC. ……… Pasteurization is the most reliable and feasible way to render dairy products safe for consumption.”

    I definitely do not want to be associated as promoting consumption of raw dairy products; however, if I read the above quotation right then 40% of dairy associated foodborne outbreaks were associated with consumption of pasteurized milk or milk products made from pasteurized milk or treated by a microbe killing process. Clearly this is another example of abusive use of safe. The statement should read something like: Pasteurization is the most reliable and feasible way for reducing or minimizing the risk of contracting foodborne disease from consumption of dairy products. I am now starting to do some reading on ‘epigenetic brainwashing’ and believe that this process might explain why many food safety spokesthingies continue to be purveyors of truthiness when it comes to abusing the word safe.

    • Bill, the CDC report highlights the relative risks associated with unpasteurized vs. pasteurized dairy products. It’s hard to ignore that 60% of the outbreaks were associated with consuming dairy products (ie., unpasteurized) that were used by fewer than 1% of survey respondents.

  4. Is there any distinction between milk and cheese in the data, does the data include cheese made from raw milk?

    • Hi Neville,

      Yes, the data treat raw milk and cheese made from unpasteurized milk both as one consolidated picture and as separate items. Drinking raw milk vs. pasteurized milk had a much higher risk differential than eating cheese from unpasteurized vs. pasteurized milk. Some 60% of dairy outbreak overall were associated with consuming unpasteurized dairy products. That proportion increases to 82% when only milk is looked at. You can follow the live link in the first paragraph to read the full report


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