A new study from Minnesota has found that raw milk intake infects 1 in every 6 people with bacterial or parasite infections. Researchers at the Minnesota Department of Health found 530 laboratory-confirmed cases of infections. These infections included Salmonella, E. coli and Campylobacter, along with a parasitic infection called cryptosporidiosis. The study was published Wednesday [11 Dec 2013] in Emerging Infectious Diseases, a publication of CDC.
During a previous CDC study, raw milk was found to be 150 times more likely than pasteurized milk to cause illness. Most common diseases that occur with the pathogens that contaminate raw milk are diarrhea, stomach cramps and vomiting. These can last for about a week or more, but they sometimes involve strains of E. coli are capable of causing kidney failure and death.
"Fortunately, most people recover, but sometimes, it can cause more severe symptoms or long-term diseases, such as a nervous system disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome, or reactive arthritis, which is inflammation in the joints that develops in response to an infection by bacteria," said study researcher Trisha Robinson, an epidemiologist at the Minnesota Department of Health, in the press release.
Analysis of data collected in Minnesota from 2001 to 2010 showed that 3.7 percent of people who reported food borne gastrointestinal infections had consumed raw milk, with children disproportionately affected and many people drinking raw milk on their own or relatives' farms, the Minnesota officials said. Based on the available data, researchers estimated that 17 percent of raw milk consumers became ill in the course of study, which counts to total 20 502 Minnesotans. However, Robinson says that because they only included people who went to doctors and had lab tests, the data is expected to rise, as many cases are not reported or confirmed.
"Some raw milk advocates fail to acknowledge the elevated health risk associated with raw milk consumption and minimize the significance of reported outbreaks," Robinson said. "In doing so, these advocates convey a false sense of the safety of raw milk to those who are considering consuming this product, and this sense of safety discourages a balanced assessment of the potential risks and benefits involved."
"The risk for illness associated with raw milk is far greater than what was determined based on recognized outbreaks," said Robinson. "We hope that our findings will help inform potential raw milk consumers when thinking about drinking raw milk or giving it to their children."
Raw milk has become increasingly popular with consumers interested in natural, unprocessed foods; "it's important for people to know and understand these risks before they use raw milk or give it to children," says lead author Trisha Robinson, an epidemiologist with the Minnesota Department of Health. "Pasteurization is around for a reason."
Pasteurization involves heating milk to a certain temperature to kill off microbes that might cause disease. Most milk sold in the USA is pasteurized, but some advocates say raw milk tastes better and has more nutrients and health benefits, and 30 states allow it to be sold straight from farms.