Raw Milk

As many may now, Irene has a very strong opinion on raw milk. Both Mark and Irene grew up on raw milk and fed Aaron and Jared raw milk until 2001 when attending a conference and learned that the same symptoms of a cow with johnes disease is the symptoms of a person with crones disease. If we don’t feed a calf mother’s milk for fear the animal could have johnes disease, why would we feed it to our family; unless we know the herd is a closed herd tested free of johnes? That being said, we recently received this email from our retired vet . . . .

CDC: Most dairy-related disease outbreaks linked to raw milk

CDC: Most dairy-related disease outbreaks linked to raw milk
A recently released CDC study showed that raw milk product disease outbreaks led to severe illness.
The rate of outbreaks caused by unpasteurized milk and products made from raw milk was 150 times greater than outbreaks linked to pasteurized milk, according to a study by the U.S. government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The 13-year review by CDC also reveals that the states where the sale of raw milk was legal had more than twice the rate of outbreaks as states where it was illegal.
The study was published last week in the CDC journal, Emerging Infectious Diseases. It reviewed dairy-produce-related disease outbreaks from 1993 to 2006 in all 50 states. Authors compared the amount of milk produced in the U.S. over the study period (about 2.7 trillion pounds) to the amount CDC estimates was likely consumed raw (a mere 1 percent, or 27 billion pounds) to come up with the 150 times higher rate of outbreaks caused by raw milk and products made with it, such as cheese and yogurt.
The study covered 121 dairy—related disease outbreaks, which caused 4,413 illnesses, 239 hospitalizations and three deaths. In 60 percent of the outbreaks (i.e. 73 outbreaks) state health officials determined raw milk products were the cause. Nearly all of the hospitalizations (200 of the 239) were from the raw milk outbreaks.
“Reported outbreaks represent the tip of the iceberg. For every outbreak and every illness reported, many others occur, and most illnesses are not part of recognized outbreaks,” the agency points out.
Thirteen percent of patients in raw milk outbreaks were hospitalized compared to just 1 percent in pasteurized milk outbreaks. This may be because raw milk outbreaks were all caused by bacteria, such as E. coli O157, which tend to produce more severe illnesses, study authors say. Pasteurized milk and cheese outbreaks were often caused by relatively mild infections like norovirus and Staphylococcus aureus.
CDC reports these dairy-related outbreaks occurred in 30 states, and 75 percent of the raw milk outbreaks (i.e. 55 outbreaks) occurred in the 21 states where it was legal to sell raw milk products at the time. The study also reported that seven states changed their laws during the study period.
“This study shows an association between state laws and the number of outbreaks and illnesses from raw milk products,” highlights Robert Tauxe, a medical doctor and deputy director of CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases (DFWED). “Restricting the sale of raw milk products is likely to reduce the number of outbreaks and can help keep people healthier.”
This study also found that the raw milk product outbreaks led to much more severe illness—and disproportionately affected people under age 20. In the raw milk outbreaks with known age breakdowns, 60 percent of patients were younger than 20, compared to 23 percent in outbreaks from pasteurized products. Children are more likely than adults to get seriously ill from the bacteria in raw milk, according to the CDC.
CDC health officials warn that consumers can’t tell if raw milk is really safe to drink, and that even under ideal conditions of cleanliness, collecting milk introduces some bacteria, which unless the milk is pasteurized, can multiply and grow.
CDC isn’t alone either in backing pasteurization over raw milk, so does the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Veterinary Medical Association.
“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,” notes study co-author Barbara Mahon, also a medical doctor, and deputy chief of CDC’s DFWED Enteric Diseases Epidemiology Branch.
“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,” she notes. The CDC has several videotapes online of those parents discussing what they’ve been through (www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/rawmilk/raw-milk-videos.html).
“Back to nature”—that’s what many urbanites are trying to do with the food they buy and eat. They are shopping “local” at farmers’ markets and/or direct from producers, opting for organic at the grocery store, participating in food cooperatives or CSAs. Some are even getting into gardening or backyard chickens. Many people are trying to eat foods that are minimally processed. While that’s all well and good—and potentially profitable from the producer’s perspective—CDC warns that milk and dairy products do indeed need minimal processing, i.e. pasteurization. Heating milk to 161 degrees for about 20 seconds is all it takes to kill disease-causing germs like Salmonella, E. coli O157, Campylobacter and others that can be found in raw milk.
Before pasteurization, raw milk was a common source of the bacteria that cause tuberculosis, diphtheria, severe streptococcal infections, typhoid fever, and other food-borne illnesses that killed many people each year, especially young children. CDC reports that numerous studies have shown that pasteurization does not significantly change the nutritional value of milk. While heat slightly affects a few of the vitamins found in milk—thiamine, vitamin B12, and vitamin C—milk is only a minor source of these vitamins in the overall diet anyway.
CDC health experts want people to “understand the risks of drinking raw milk,” especially because they may “be hearing claims about the supposed ‘benefits’ of raw milk.” However, the CDC says that while it’s possible to get food-borne illnesses from all kinds of food, “raw milk is one of the riskiest of all.” And “getting sick” can mean many days of diarrhea, stomach cramping and vomiting, or less commonly, it can mean kidney failure, paralysis, chronic disorders, even death. For example, a person can develop severe or even life-threatening diseases, such as Guillain-Barré syndrome, which can cause paralysis, and hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can result in kidney failure and stroke.
“If you think that certain types of bacteria may be beneficial to your health consider getting them from foods that don’t involve such a high risk. For example, so-called probiotic bacteria are sometimes added to pasteurized fermented foods, such as yogurt and kefir,” say CDC health experts.
Here’s the laundry list of germs sometimes found in raw milk that can make people sick: Bacteria (Brucella, Campylobacter, Listeria, Mycobacterium bovis, Salmonella, Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli, Shigella, Yersinia); parasites (Giardia), and viruses (norovirus).
According to the CDC, the risk of getting sick from drinking raw milk is greater for infants and young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems, such as those with cancer, an organ transplant, or HIV/AIDS. But it’s important to remember that healthy people of any age—including farmers who’ve hung onto the idea of drinking their own herd’s raw milk—can get very sick or even die if it’s contaminated with harmful germs.
Raw-milk fans argue that it has more enzymes and nutrients than pasteurized milk
While it’s true that pasteurization does inactivate some enzymes in milk, “the enzymes in raw animal milk are not thought to be important in human health,” CDC states. “Some nutrients are somewhat reduced in raw milk, but the United States diet generally has plenty of other sources of these nutrients. For example, vitamin C is reduced by pasteurization, but raw milk is not a major source of vitamin C.”
Many people believe that small, local farms are better sources of healthy food. Indeed, CDC points out that “there are many local, small farms that offer pasteurized organic milk and cheese products.”
Does drinking raw milk prevent or cure any diseases, such as asthma, allergies, heart disease, or cancer? No, says the CDC. There are no health benefits from drinking raw milk that can’t be obtained from drinking pasteurized milk, and pasteurization of milk “has never been found to be the cause of chronic diseases, allergies, or developmental or behavioral problems.”
Here in Wisconsin, Loganville dairy producer Vernon Hershberger is facing charges for supplying a so-called private buying club with raw milk. At Agri-View’s press deadline earlier this week, “food sovereignty” activists were planning on gathering in Baraboo this week to support Hershberger at a court hearing. Hershberger is charged with, among other things, operating a retail food establishment without a license. Hershberger repeatedly denies this, citing he provides milk only to paid members in a private buying club and thus isn’t subject to state food regulations. “There is more at stake here than just a farmer and his few customers,” says Hershberger, “this is about the fundamental right of farmers and consumers to engage in peaceful, private, mutually consenting agreements for food, without additional oversight.”
At a pre-court rally scheduled for 11 a.m. March 2, in front of the Sauk County Courthouse in Baraboo, food rights activists will read and distribute a “Declaration of Food Independence” that asserts inherent rights in food choice. A signing ceremony will be part of the rally that advocates expect the declaration will inspire a growing food sovereignty movement. Event information can be had at RawMilkFreedomRiders.com.