Legal US raw milk sales behind 'rapid increase' in outbreaks: CDC

By Mark ASTLEY contact

- Last updated on GMT

Legal US raw milk sales behind 'rapid increase' in outbreaks: CDC

Related tags: Raw milk, Milk

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) blames the legal sale of raw milk in an increasing number of US states for a rise in the number of outbreaks associated with unpasteurized milk.

As detailed in their study, which was published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases​, CDC researchers reviewed all US foodborne outbreaks between 2007 and 2012 in which the "food vehicle"​ was unpasteurized milk.

During the six-year period, 81 outbreaks across 26 US states, which resulted 979 illnesses, 73 cases of hospitalization, but no deaths, were attributed to raw milk consumption.

Compared with the period 1993 to 2006, the average number of raw milk-related outbreaks "more than quadrupled"​ from 3.3 per year to 13.5 between 2007 and 2012.

“As more states have allowed the legal sales of raw milk, there has been a rapid increase in the number of raw milk associated outbreaks,”​ CDC said in an accompanying statement.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently prohibits the interstate sale of unpasteurized milk for human consumption.

But an increasing number of US states permit the sale of raw milk in some form within state lines. 

“Since 2004, eight additional states have begun allowing the sale of raw milk, bringing the number of states where raw milk sales are legal to 30.”

“At least five additional states allow cow shares – practice where people can pay a fee for a cow’s care in return for some of the cow’s raw milk – for a total of 10 states as of the most recent survey.”

“If more states begin allowing sales of raw milk, the number of outbreaks and illnesses will continue to rise,"​ it predicted.

"Public health challenge"

Of the 81 raw milk-related outbreaks recorded between 2007 and 2012, Campylobacter was responsible for 62 (81%).

Shiga toxin producing E.coli (STEC) was to blame for 13 (17%), Salmonella enterica for two (3%), and Coxiella burnetii for one (1%).

The three remaining outbreaks were caused by multiple pathogens.

Sixty-six of the 81 outbreaks were reported in US states where the sale of raw milk was legal in some form.

The other 15 outbreaks were reported in eight states where sales were prohibited.

An increase in the number of raw milk-related outbreaks was also evident in this period.

Thirty US raw milk-related foodborne outbreaks (2% of all that implicated food) were recorded in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Between 2010 and 2012, 51 outbreaks were attributed to raw milk - 5% of the total number. 

On the back of its findings, CDC has called on lawmakers to consider the "dangers."

"Outbreaks associated with non-pasteurized milk continue to pose a public health challenge. Legalization of the sale of non-pasteurized milk in additional states would probably lead to more outbreaks and illnesses,​" the study concluded.

"Public health officials should continue to educate legislators and consumers about the dangers associated with consuming non-pasteurized milk."

"In addition, federal and state regulators should enforce existing regulations to prevent distribution of non-pasteurized milk," ​it added.

Source: Emerging Infectious Diseases http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/21/1/14-0447_article
Title: Increased Outbreaks Associated with Non-pasteurized Milk, United States, 2007-2012
Authors: Elizabeth Mungai, Casey Barton Behravesh, L Hannah Gould

Related topics: Regulation & Safety, Fresh Milk

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4 comments

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Revolving door between BigAg and govt.

Posted by Henry,

Small farmers raising non-CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operations) are least likely to have unsanitary conditions. It's the overcrowded CAFO farms that are the problem. They even have to give the cows anti-biotics because they've got them they're packed in and sickly.

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Not worth the risk

Posted by Jackie Schmidts,

Consuming raw milk is not worth the risk. It should not be allowed to be sold to the general public. Some talk about mandating warning labels, but do kid whose parents serve them raw milk have any choice? A 3 year old in Australia died recently from consuming raw milk. The facts are raw milk can contain dangerous pathogens and bacteria, pasteurization kills these problems. Dairy farms are not clean places. Why allow the sale of raw milk when we know it can be dangerous? If you want raw milk, you have choices, buy a cow or goat.

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Witch hunt or Health hunt?

Posted by Colin K N A U F,

I think the risk vs benefit ratio is remarkable, looking at those figures— considering these farmers do not have a laisse faire attitude around hygiene. They know that they have to be very careful to protect their customers health and continued business. Repeat customers drive their business. On the other hand all the various farmers whose milk is collected in the same tank and homogenized and pasteurized do not have to abide by as high a standard. Less care is taken as they know that any lapse in hygiene will be taken care of by pasteurization at the dairy plant. I would suggest if we relied on the ‘conventional' dairy farmers milk with out post collection processing the health issues would be unsurmountable. So we might want to laud these dairy farmers rather than pillorying them.
I recall as a child doing a school tour of a dairy processing plant. We all gasped as a dead mouse slid down with the milk over the cooling pipes and into the collection vat! The manager guiding the tour casually scooped it out and put it in the garbage, like it was an expected part of the process. If had been raw milk and the rodent had fallen into a cereal bowl, I wager the word would be out fast— and that raw milk farmer would never sell any more raw milk. This is just another way of looking at the situation.

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