Raw milk problems won’t go away

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I know, I keep harping on raw milk to a community of veterinarians who understand food safety and foodborne illness. But it makes me shake my head in disbelief as story after story comes out about continued foodborne illness associated with raw milk from dairy farms.

I realize you can’t control everything your clients do. And maybe the farms who are distributing raw milk to consumers aren’t using their veterinarian or aren’t informing him/her that they are distributing the product. But if you do know about clients who are doing it, what is your responsibility both under the law and as a defacto officer of public health, as you swore in your veterinary oath? That’s for you to decide, but the facts are there. There are a lot of illnesses and outbreaks due to the consumption of raw milk.

 A recent press release from the FDA discusses another case of foodborne illness from raw milk, this time from the Tucker Adkins Dairy of York, S. C. This time campylobacteriosis occurred in three confirmed cases and five probably cases. The release says although retail sale of raw milk is legal in South Carolina, it is illegal to distribute raw milk in final package form for direct human consumption in interstate commerce. Retail sale of raw milk for human consumption is also illegal in North Carolina.

Raw milk may contain a wide variety of harmful bacteria – including Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, Listeria, Campylobacter and Brucella -- that may cause illness and possibly death. Public health authorities, including FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have expressed concerns about the hazards of drinking raw milk for decades.

Food safety expert Doug Powell, PhD, Kansas State University and author of the barfblog, offers a table of raw milk-related outbreaks here.   


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Bill Marler    
Seattle  |  July, 18, 2011 at 07:52 AM

A great resource on raw milk risks is www.realrawmilkfacts.com

Big Tex    
Texas  |  July, 18, 2011 at 08:37 AM

Geni Wren -- What makes you think it is a veterinarian's duty, either "under the law" or as a "defecto officer of public health" to ride herd on what a dairyman does with his product or what a willing consumer wants to consume? What makes you think a veterinarian is a "defacto officer of the public health"? Aren't there enough food nazis out there already with the FDA, USDA and state and local "health" officials who are all on the public teat . . . You base your "shaking your head" argument on the current blitz of news releases regarding raw milk, none of which "outbreaks" have been conclusively proven to be attributed to raw milk. Moreover, I have not found one shred of scientific evidence that proves that raw milk from a Grade A raw milk dairy is any less safe that pastureized milk from an industrial dairy. What makes me shake my head is how folks like you continue to beat the drum against raw milk. It is interesting that those beating such drums are affiliated with Big Ag, the FDA of some other establishment entity that will not rest until it has full control of our food supply. This is about CHOICE, not food police. Give it a rest . . . Jeez . . .

CT  |  July, 18, 2011 at 08:28 PM

If the consumer is willing to purchuse the product after the warning is posted as it has to be in CT. Then let the consumer purchuse the raw milk, are we as the dairy industary trying to keep dairy farmers in business and not drive more of us out of this business?

colorado  |  July, 19, 2011 at 03:52 PM

I'm sorry, you will never, ever convince me that a food that has nourished humanity (fresh raw milk) for around 14,000 yrs is now so dangerous that we mustn't consume it in any form, ever. Thats ridiculous. I have consumed raw milk and raw milk products my whole life, I have never gotten ill from it. I know my raw milk dairy ranchers personally, I know their animals are healthy and that their standards are exemplary. There is a lot more going on here than meets the eye.

PA  |  July, 19, 2011 at 09:15 PM

After drinking raw milk for nearly 60 years, I've gone to store bought milk because I discontinued dairying. Funny it tastes like 4 day old milk, no wonder it is. It just doesn't taste as good. No wonder we have trouble getting people to drink milk.

Harry Hamil    
Black Mountain, NC  |  July, 28, 2011 at 06:11 AM

What pitiful logic and a misrepresentation about the facts as they were known at the time this article was written. The author wrote this as if on July 18th there were absolute proof that the raw milk was the vehicle for the infection when, in fact there wasn’t. At the time Geni Wren made the conclusions in this article, there was ONLY a correlation shown and no clear causality. Since then, a full gallon of the milk in the lot that had been located several days BEFORE the FDA issued its press release, was tested and came back negative. Thus, there is now evidence that the raw milk was NOT the vehicle. In addition, there are zero records of anyone not involved with the courier who go sick. This is a good example of press release journalism. The author failed to question the content of the release or the context surrounding it.

Florida  |  August, 01, 2011 at 07:35 AM

Well we'll just have to see to it that you cannot drink that stuff in public places. That's it, no smoking or raw milk drinking anywhere in public. And don't tell me there would be no "secondhand" bacteria crawling around and infecting us "and the children" if we don't have such a ban! Damnit.

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