Wednesday, February 22, 2012

CDC Report: Raw Milk 150 Times More Likely To Cause Illness

Over at Food Safety News,  James Andrews reports:

"Raw milk and raw milk products are 150 times more likely than their pasteurized counterparts to sicken those who consume them, according to a 13-year review published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday. States that permit raw milk sales also have more than twice as many illness outbreaks as states where raw milk is not sold.

The CDC study, published online in Emerging Infectious Diseases, reviewed dairy-related outbreaks between 1993 and 2006 in all 50 states, during which time the authors counted 121 dairy-related illness outbreaks resulting in 4,413 illnesses, 239 hospitalizations and three deaths. 

Despite raw milk products accounting for approximately one percent of dairy production in the U.S., raw milk dairies were linked to 60 percent of those dairy-related outbreaks. In addition, 202 of the 239 hospitalizations (85 percent) resulted from raw milk outbreaks. Thirteen percent of patients from raw milk outbreaks were hospitalized, versus one percent of patients from pasteurized milk outbreaks.

Seventy-five percent of the raw milk outbreaks occurred in the 21 states where the sale of raw milk was legal at the study's onset in 1993. Today, 30 states permit the sale of raw milk, while another seven are considering raw milk legislation changes this year.

The study found that individuals under the age of 20 accounted for 60 percent of those affected by raw milk outbreaks, compared with 23 percent associated with pasteurized products. Children were also more likely than adults to become seriously ill from pathogenic bacteria in raw milk.
The differences in illness severity between raw and pasteurized milk are largely due to the pathogens present in each: People sickened from raw milk typically ingest injurious bacteria -- most commonly Salmonella or Campylobacter -- whereas pasteurized milk outbreaks more often result from "relatively mild" pathogens such as norovirus, according to the CDC."

 Read more here.

I don't endorse governmental restriction of sales of raw milk products, which from this report appear no more hazardous than alcohol, cigarettes, or many common pharmaceuticals.  If people want to take the risk of salmonella infection in order to consume raw milk, that is their own business. 

But if raw milk performs like this, it won't be long before it will lose its market.  Very quickly people will reject a disease vector like this. 


serega said...

4,413 illnesses and 239 hospitalizations in 50 states during the period of 13! years. For me it doesn't sound all that dreadful, especially considering the benefits of raw milk compare to pasteurized milk. It may make people healthier in the long run, in which case the benefits outweigh the risk. So, you said it right; let people to make their choice. And, as you pointed out, 7 more states are considering raw milk legislation, so more people choose raw milk.

Johnny B said...

'Disease Vector?'

C'mon man. Surely you are smarter than that.

Don said...

Johnny B,

If I disagree with you and WAPF, I am not smart?

Ad hominem doesn't go far with me.

From the WAPF press release, I can see that whoever wrote it has no understanding of relative risk.

That PR mentions only the absolute number of cases of illness from either pasteurized or raw milk. The problem with that is that the consumption of pasteurized milk is far greater than the consumption of raw milk.

To fairly compare the risks of each, one has to look at the number of illnesses generated compared to the level of consumption.

For example, hypothetically (because I don't want to look up all the raw data), if pasteurized milk causes 203 illnesses per one hundred million gallons of pasteurized milk consumed, while raw milk causes 112 illness per year per one million gallons consumed, the rate of illness per gallon of raw milk is .01% and that of pasteurized is .0002%, i.e. the risk of illness is 50 times greater with raw milk.

Anyways, I wrote 'but if raw milk performs like this....' it will get a reputation as a disease vector very quickly.

Maybe it doesn't perform like that. As I said, I'm in favor of letting people take their chances.

I rather doubt the claims that raw milk is more nutritious that pasteurized/cooked. I am not aware of any food that becomes less digestible when cooked. Experiments have shown that meat protein is more digestible when cooked; I expect milk protein is also more digestible when cooked. Denaturing proteins makes them much more easily cleaved by our digestive enzymes.

Johnny B said...

Don. I didn't mean to be ugly. My 'smarter than that' statement was meant to be rhetorical. I expect Big Media to regurgitate the CDC's press releases -- most of them probably verbatim -- but not fellow Primal adherents to whom many people follow for advice.

Dairy is optional, of course. And I'm glad you don't support outlawing raw milk. But as we both know, statistics are easily manipulated. And many consumers believe the CDC, FDA et al always have their best interests in mind. I am not among those consumers.

It is quite disingenuous for the CDC to accompany their press release with four anecdotal (and truly sad) videos of heartbroken parents dealing with very sick children. As you no doubt know, the plural of anecdote ain't data. As far as relative risk goes, the drive to the Farmers Market is much more dangerous than the risk of drinking raw milk. But the CDC is not calling for the outlawing of automobiles.

In keeping with your red meat analogy: Raw milk is just like red meat. Consumers can choose to cook it or not. And a lot more people get sick from meat than milk, but no one is suggesting outlawing meat. Cheers.

Don! said...

"If I disagree with you and WAPF, I am not smart?"

Oy vey. No, the point is that you don't look any further than what the CDC says, and you don't question their methods. For example, didn't it seem odd to you that a report published in 2012 only contains data up to 2006?

Johnny B said...

I don't understand. I'm the one bashing the CDC report -- and you for repeating it.

Of course I find it odd that they did not include any more recent data. That's my point. They cherry-picked the data just like the response from WPA said they did.

Perhaps if you now agree with my assertion that the CDC's methodology and conclusions are flawed, you could post a new blog with a headline such as, "CDC Report Flawed." And don't forget to include the fact that according to the CDC's own data, three (3%) percent of the population drinks raw milk. But when they did the math for the report you cite, they used old data suggesting only one (1%) percent of the population drinks raw milk. I'm no Math Major, but I think that's a difference of ~3 Million vs ~9 Million. Cheers.

Don said...

Don! and Johnny B,

The last I checked, it is widely accepted that heat kills pathogenic bacteria.

I think it is also widely accepted that raw meat, fish, and poultry present a much greater risk of infectious disease transmission than cooked flesh.

Raw meat is a vector for infection outside human agriculture. Parasite and microbial infections are common causes of disease among wild animals and hunter-gatherers. Some anthropologists believe that cooking became a human universal in part because those who adopted it suffered fewer infections, which gave them a reproductive advantage over anyone who refused to cook.

Raw meat is risky simply because it is the ideal culture medium for microbes that infect human tissue (living meat). Many infectious diseases that haunt humanity originated as diseases of livestock.

Of course, poor handling of cooked meat can also transmit disease, but I don't think anyone would argue that just because some people get sick from cooked meat eaten at Jack-in-the-box, that raw meat must be just as safe as cooked.

Thus, to me, the CDC's claim has a common sense ring of truth. Given that 1) cooking kills pathogens and 2) raw milk is susceptible to contamination at many steps from the teat to the consumer and 3) raw milk is an ideal culture medium for microbes, and 4) the sterilization step is left out, I find it very likely that raw milk is more likely to transmit infectious disease than pasteurized milk. To me this claim is no less plausible than the claim that raw chicken is more likely to give you salmonella than cooked chicken.

I don't know the reasons for the CDC's choice of time-span for the comparison, but I would not be surprised if it had to do with quality of data. For example, they might not have good data on raw milk consumption prior to the time they chose as the start date.

I would add that both the government and the conventional dairy industry have a stake in this.

The government does not want a bunch of its citizens laid out with serious infections, because of the costs it imposes on society (health care, lost productivity, lost citizens, increased vulnerability when too many citizens are disabled by infection). I don't endorse their attempt to ban raw milk, but I understand why they don't want it.

The conventional dairy industry doesn't want milk to get a bad reputation. If people start getting sick from raw milk, they will start associating milk with illness, and this will hurt the conventional dairy industry. They want to protect the image of milk as the most pure of foods. Again, I don't endorse their attempt to ban raw milk, but I understand why they want to ban it. It is the same reason that surgeons want to restrict the practice of surgery to people with adequate training. The profession wants a good image; the milk industry wants a good image.

LeonRover said...

I grew up drinking milk fresh from the cow - and cream freshly separated.

However the rest of the twice daily milkings from 20 Friesans went to the Milk Company for processing - providing pateurised milk for city folk and butter (KerryGold).

These days I would only drink raw milk that I would personally buy at source.

Teech said...

So, should I not buy vegetables and fruits that have led to infectious outbreaks, like spinach and cantaloupe? Quick google search... 12000 infected, 12 dead in one year...

Teech said...

Anyways, if people are going to drink milk, raw should be supported because the cows must be pastured. Its way more humane than industrialized milk production. Also, there are additional health benefits from not heating pasteurizing the milk, a lot of heat sensitive vitamins are not destroyed or denatured in raw. Plus, even calves have a hard time thriving on pasteurized milk.

Johnny B said...

Take a look at these stats. Skip down to 'Strategy #1' if you don't want to read the apology from this poor raw milk dairy farmer. He's a god-fearing man who I believe feels 'dirty' just discussing the media and the government who are so compromised by Big Food and Big Pharma. But his numbers show how the CDC report about raw milk 'cherry picks' the data. And the media duly reports the CDC's flawed numbers complete with hysterical headlines.

Ben said...

Don has stated an obvious truth: Heated milk will be safer because it kills bacteria.

However, heating milk to a high temperature may also alter natural enzyme and nutritional aspects of milk.

Though raw milk may result in more bacteria related illness, no one is talking about how pasteurized milk may be damaging in other ways - diseases that we may not otherwise consider to be "milk related."

After all, humans naturally drink raw milk as infants as do calves. I don't think the Creator suggested we boil milk before giving it to our infants. Why should we boil it to drink otherwise? In addition, pasteurized milk tastes like s*** compared to good raw milk.