Dangers of Raw Milk: Minnesota Study Documents 1 in 6 Become Ill

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Raw Milk Dangers

A new study from Minnesota has found that raw milk intake infects one in every six people with bacterial or parasite infections.

Researchers at the Minnesota Department of Health found 530 laboratory-confirmed cases of infections. These infections included almonella, E. coli and Campylobacter, along with parasitic infections called cryptosporidiosis.  The study was published Wednesday in Emerging Infectious Diseases, a publication of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

During a previous CDC study, they found raw milk was 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 last for about a week or more, but they sometimes involve strains of E.coli bacteria 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% of people who reported foodborne 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 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 United States 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.

In California, the Department of Public Health requires a warning label on raw dairy products that says they “may contain disease-causing microorganisms. Persons at highest risk of disease from these organisms include newborns and infants; the elderly; pregnant women; those taking corticosteroids, antibiotics or antacids; and those having chronic illnesses or other conditions that weaken their immunity.”

8 children sick from drinking raw milk in East Tennessee

Some people believe drinking raw milk is healthier than drinking pasteurized milk, but in fact its 150 times more likely to cause illness – and can be life threatening according to the Tennessee Department of Health.

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