FDA Warns of Raw Milk Food Poisoning Outbreaks

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), in conjunction with other public health agencies, have issued a warning about outbreaks related to drinking raw milk. The most recent reported outbreak is of <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/campylobacter">campylobacteriosis in the Midwest.

The FDA, in collaboration with the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH), the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Indiana State Board of Animal Health, and the Indiana State Health Department, are investigating the outbreak and alerting consumers to the campylobacteriosis outbreak associated with drinking raw milk. MDCH reports that, as of March 24, 2010, it received reports of 12 confirmed cases of illness from Campylobacter infections in consumers who drank raw milk. The raw milk originated from Forest Grove Dairy in Middlebury, Indiana.

We have long warned about the potential health problems associated with ingesting raw milk and its sometimes very dangerous effects on human health.

Raw milk is milk that has not been pasteurized. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), raw milk or raw milk products were implicated in 45 outbreaks that resulted in over 1,000 illnesses and two deaths in the United States during 1998-2005. In 1938, milk was the cause of 25 percent of all food- and water-related sickness. With the introduction of universal pasteurization—long considered one of the most successful public health endeavors of the last century—that number fell to one percent by 1993. Of note, however, because not all cases of foodborne illness are recognized and reported, the actual number of illnesses associated with raw milk likely is greater.

The FDA further explains that raw milk is unpasteurized milk from hoofed mammals, such as cows, sheep, or goats, that may contain a wide variety of harmful bacteria—Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, Listeria, Campylobacter, and Brucella, to name just some—that may cause illness, even death. For decades, public health authorities, including the FDA and CDC, have expressed concerns about the hazards of drinking raw milk.

Some people believe raw milk contains organisms that treat all manner of maladies, including digestive problems, asthma, and autism, saying raw milk offers greater benefits because it allegedly does not contain chemicals and hormones. This growing contingent says the heat necessary for pasteurization kills healthy natural proteins and enzymes. The FDA disagrees and insists pasteurization destroys harmful bacteria without significantly changing milk’s nutritional value. Of note, it is illegal to sell raw milk for human consumption in 22 states. The other states allow raw milk sales within their borders; the FDA bans sales across state lines.

Since 1987, the FDA has required all milk packaged for human consumption to be pasteurized before being delivered for introduction into interstate commerce. The FDA’s pasteurization requirement also applies to other milk products, with the exception of a few aged cheeses.

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