Outbreaks caused by raw milk increased over a six-year period, according to a newly released CDC study. The study reviewed outbreaks caused by raw milk--milk that has not been pasteurized to kill disease-causing germs--in the United States that were reported to CDC from 2007-2012. The study analyzed the number of outbreaks, the legal status of raw milk sales in each state, and the number of illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths associated with these outbreaks.
More states are legalizing the sale of raw milk even though this leads to an increase in the number outbreaks.
Findings also showed that the number of states that have legalized the sale of raw milk has also increased. In 2004, there were 22 states where the sale of raw milk was legal in some form; however, this number increased to 30 in 2011. Eighty-one percent of outbreaks were reported in states where the sale of raw milk was legal.
Children were at the highest risk for illness from raw milk. About sixty percent of outbreaks involved at least one child younger than five years of age.
Raw milk is a risk for human health.
You cannot look at, smell, or taste raw milk to determine if it is safe. Cows and other animals can appear healthy and clean, but can still have germs, like Salmonella and E. coli, which can cause illnesses in humans.
Milk cannot be collected without introducing some bacteria-- even under ideal conditions of cleanliness. Unless the milk is pasteurized, these bacteria can multiply.
Even raw milk supplied by "certified," "organic," or "local" dairies has no guarantee of being safe. Raw milk from grass-fed animals is not considered safe either.
How does milk get contaminated?
Milk contamination may occur from:
- Cow feces coming into direct contact with the milk
- Infection of the cow's udder (mastitis)
- Cow diseases (e.g., bovine tuberculosis)
- Bacteria that live on the skin of cows
- Environment (e.g., feces, dirt, processing equipment)
- Insects, rodents, and other animal vectors
- Humans, for example, by cross-contamination from soiled clothing and boots
Is it true that raw milk has more enzymes and nutrients than pasteurized milk?
While it’s true that the heating process of pasteurization does inactivate some enzymes in milk, the enzymes in raw animal milk are not thought to be important in human health. Some nutrients are somewhat reduced in raw milk, but the United States diet generally has plenty of other sources of these nutrients. For example, vitamin C is reduced by pasteurization, but raw milk is not a major source of vitamin C.