NMPF slams study claiming milk is food safety risk

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

The McGill Uni study said: Presence of pathogens like Salmonella and E. coli O157 in milk has been associated to disease outbreaks around the world. Picture: iStock
The McGill Uni study said: Presence of pathogens like Salmonella and E. coli O157 in milk has been associated to disease outbreaks around the world. Picture: iStock

Related tags Raw milk Milk Pasteurization

The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) has slammed a study for describing milk as a ‘high-risk factor’ in spreading foodborne illness.

NMPF said the study’s authors need to clarify any significant dairy-related food safety risk is only associated with raw milk and not commercially available dairy foods sold in the US and other developed nations.

The McGill University study by Sai Kranthi Vanga and Vijaya Raghavan looked at how plant based alternatives fare nutritionally compared to cow’s milk.

It compared the nutritional profiles of four imitation dairy beverages and conventional cow’s milk. For full coverage see our sister publication FoodNavigator​.

Pathogens in milk associated with outbreaks

The study said despite considerable advantages with consumption of cow’s milk there are various downsides associated with it.

“Firstly, the presence of various pathogens like Salmonella spp. and E. coli O157:H7 in milk has been associated to cause wide spread disease outbreaks around the world.”

NMPF said these claims were inaccurate and it is raw, unpasteurized milk that is a demonstrable source of pathogens such as E. coli O157:H7, Campylobacter, Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella.

FoodQualityNews was told McGill researchers have responded directly to the NMPF but they did not comment publically.

NMPF members include Dairy Farmers of America, Land O’Lakes, Premier Milk and Select Milk producers.

The conclusion about the safety of fluid milk consumption cited a 2009 research paper by Oliver et al but NMPF said this research was about raw milk and within the US.

‘Inappropriate and misleading’

Dr Beth Briczinski, NMPF’s VP for dairy foods and nutrition, said the media attention to the claim was ‘disconcerting’ and had to be addressed.

“Cow’s milk is one of the most regulated food products on the market today. To publish such an egregious claim in a scientific journal could damage consumer trust in this great beverage, which is why we insist that the study’s authors issue a correction to the journal article and revise its press release immediately.

“It is inappropriate and misleading to characterize the entire dairy category by the risks of such a small segment of the industry – one which is illegal in Canada and in many US states.

“There is no basis for your statement linking milk consumption to worldwide foodborne outbreaks. Such a comment has the potential to do incredible, unjustified harm to our industry and has the potential to cause fear in consumers who are seeking nutrient-dense and safe products for themselves and their families.”

Statistics estimate 1-2% of foodborne outbreaks are attributed to dairy products.

NMPF, which is against the direct sale of raw milk to consumers, said scientific evidence has identified raw milk as a demonstrated public health risk.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported more than 70% of foodborne outbreaks involving dairy are attributed to raw milk and inappropriately-aged raw milk cheeses.

Compared to pasteurized milk, raw milk is more likely to cause foodborne illness​ and its consumption is less common.

Related topics Regulation & Safety Fresh Milk Cheese

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