Raw milk accounts for an increase in current milkborne illnesses
Between 1973 and 1992 the number of raw milk-originated outbreaks was 2.4 per year. Over the last 20 years, the consumption of raw milk products has increased, and with it, Garcia said, the undesired outcome.
"The risk of milkborne disease has increased between 1993 and 2006," he said. "Outbreaks associated with raw milk consumption have more than doubled (5.2 per year) compared to those between 1973 and1992."
Garcia said that research from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows the rate of raw milk outbreaks and products made from it was 150 times greater than those linked to pasteurized milk.
And, Garcia said outbreaks of foodborne diseases originating from raw milk reported by the CDC seem to be just the tip of the iceberg.
"Analytical data from one decade (2001-2010) of surveillance revealed that 3.7 percent of patients with sporadic, domestically-acquired gastrointestinal infections had reported raw milk consumption," Garcia said.
Children were the ones most affected, with 76 percent of those 5 years of age or younger having been served raw milk from their farm or that of a relative's. Severe illness was observed, including Hemolytic uremic syndrome (rupturing of red blood cells) among 21 percent of Escherichia coli 0157-infected children, with one death reported.
"The number of individuals with sporadic laboratory-confirmed infections associated with raw milk consumption was 25 times greater than outbreaks reported by the CDC in Minnesota," Garcia said.
Based on these results, the report concludes that 17 percent of raw-milk consumers in Minnesota had become ill with gastrointestinal pathogenic bacteria.
"It becomes clear from this study that outbreaks reported by the CDC are only a fraction of illnesses associated with raw milk consumption," he said.
Milk pasteurization is for your safety
Garcia compares pasteurization of milk to other every-day safety precautions.
"Seatbelt laws are not written to infringe on U.S. citizens' liberties, nor for policemen to write tickets when we don't wear them," Garcia said. "Milk pasteurization is also in place to protect the public from potentially life-threatening health issues. This well-proven and safe food processing technique has helped create a partnership of trust among producers, industry, and consumers."
"Illness and disease resulting from raw milk consumption will challenge this reputation and undermine the confidence placed in one of the pillars of a highly nutritious diet," he said.