Raw milk problems give dairy farmers a 'bad name,' says one

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A veteran dairy farmer from central Missouri has heard about an E. coli outbreak in his area that has sickened 13 people and now wonders aloud if raw milk is harming the reputation of other dairy farmers.

"We've been opposed to this raw milk thing for a long time because it gives dairy farmers a bad name," David Braun, owner of a 120-cow, 400-acre farm in Cole County, Mo., told KRCG13 News.

The 77-year-old noted that his farm follows strict sanitation guidelines. 

Raw milk has been linked to E.coli outbreaks in Missouri and Oregon, and the number of adults -- and children -- sickened by the contaminated milk continues to grow. 

At least 17 people in Oregon have fallen ill after drinking raw milk from the Foundation Farm near Wilsonville, Ore., according to a report by OregonLive. Of the 17 confirmed cases, four are children who are have now been hospitalized. Three of them, including a one-year-old, are currently on kidney support.   

Owners of the Foundation Farm have voluntarily suspended distribution of their milk.

In Missouri, the number of people sickened has grown to 13, including two young children. Six of those cases have been linked to raw milk sold from an unnamed dairy farm in Howard County, Mo., as reported by the Associated Press.  

The Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune first reported the outbreak last week. By Thursday, health officials reported a 17-month-old with symptoms of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a severe condition that can lead to permanent kidney damage in some who survive the illness. According to the Center for Food Security and Public Health, HUS is fatal in 3 to 10 percent of children.

Supporters of raw milk often take risks in consuming the unpasteurized milk, which is 150 times more likely to be the cause of an outbreak than pasteurized milk. 

Alvaro Garcia, extension dairy specialist at South Dakota State University, has addressed some of the common misconceptions surrounding the issue. He refutes the notion, often cited by raw milk supporters, that raw milk is healther because enzymes and nutrients are destroyed during pasteurization.

"Research has not been able to prove these claims," Garcia says. "In fact, recent research has proven that aside from 10 percent loss in vitamin C, the rest of the vitamins were not affected. In the same trial the main milk enzymes lactoferrin, lacto-peroxidase, and lysozyme maintained highly significant activity after pasteurization."

Read more from SDSU Extension here.

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Craig Freitas    
Fresno, Ca  |  April, 19, 2012 at 10:28 AM

Raw milk is not the problem, the people who do not know how to handle it is the problem. Pasturization, and processing break down the nutrients and kill helpful antibodies. We as a socity need to learn to use good bacteria to keep us healthy, as oppposed to killing all harmful bacteria. All bacteria can never be fully removed and trying to control the bad has lead to antibiotic resistance and an over all weakened human race. I am a LVN and drink Raw Milk even with my 25 year history of HIV/AIDS infection. I even drink raw colostrum for the antibodies and health bennifits. Correct handeling by producer and consumer is more realistic than total elimination of Raw milk products.

David Avila    
Oakdale, Ca  |  April, 19, 2012 at 12:39 PM

I was raised on a dairy in the '40s, '50s and '60s. We all drank our raw milk. I can tell you in the days of "cans" the milk was not as clean as it is today. I do not quite understand where the coli is originating but I can tell you BACTERIS IS EVERYWHERE!!!

MN  |  April, 19, 2012 at 04:00 PM

As a dairy farmer of course I drink raw milk. I do not sell raw milk. I find it abhorrent that our gov't and other dairy farmers seek to dictate what a person can and cannot drink or eat. Life is full of risk, and life is full of bacteria Ron Paul 2012!

Joseph Heckman    
New Jersey  |  April, 19, 2012 at 10:21 PM

Nutrient content does not tell the complete story about how milk functions when fed to a living organism. Feeding trials have clearly demonstrated better health and growth outcomes with raw milk as compared to pasteurized milk.

Russ Salvadalena    
Pullman, WA  |  April, 20, 2012 at 02:50 PM

I grew up on a dairy farm and drank raw milk. However, it would be foolish for anyone to feed their kids raw milk if they, nor their kids, had never lived on a farm. Why take a risk? Drink pasteurized milk which has 99.9% of the great nutition of raw milk, and 0.01% of the risk of raw milk.

Kevin musser    
Ohio  |  April, 20, 2012 at 08:14 PM

Don't you just love it when they through these random scare numbers in an article aka raw milk is 150 times more likely to cause an outbreak, with no data to support it. Didn't you hear about the lady that died from drinking Coke. Didn't you hear about the people who died from all the...... Listen most of the small farms that sell fresh milk have healthier cows, cleaner facilities, and people that treat their animals more like they should. The product they produce is superior to what is produced on commercial dairies. Our problem is we have become germaphobs thanks to the media.

pa.  |  April, 21, 2012 at 08:14 PM

Every internet educated quack thinks they know better than the experts who scientifically examine data and come to logical conclusions.I have lived and worked on the farm all my life and i am daily exposed to native pathogens,which makes it relatively safe.People who are drinking someones raw milk(trace fecal matter included)have not.This is, however, a free country.Smoke,do illegal drugs,prescription drugs,ride without a helmet,sodomize,do your extreme sports....,but live,die with the consequences of your own choices and don't go crying to your insurance company or big brother when you (....) yourself up.

Washington State  |  April, 27, 2012 at 11:02 AM

I don't know all the element names for what's in milk but I'm pretty sure that lactic acid is destroyed in the pasteurization process. A lactose intolerant person in our office had not been able to drink milk for decades. She tried raw milk and discovered she could drink it. It's because raw milk has lactic acid in it and pasteurized doesn't. So how can they make the statement that "...the main milk enzymes lactoferrin, lacto-peroxidase, and lysozyme maintained highly significant activity after pasteurization." Are these elements the same as lactic acid?

Russ Salvadalena    
Pullman, WA  |  May, 11, 2012 at 03:58 PM

Craig, lactic acid is produced when bacteria "eat" the sugar in milk (lactose) and convert it to lactic acid. In cheese making, the bacteria that are added are SUPPOSED to convert the lactose into lactic acid. In raw milk, the bacteria that are present (whether from the cow or the environment) also convert the lactose into lactic acid. Raw milk that has few bateria in it, and kept cold to slow the bacteria growth, will not have much lactic acid produced. However, if there are a lot of bacteria, and the temperature is such that bacteria can grow, then lactic acid WILL be produced, and the milk will "sour". Unfortunately, Listeria is a potentially deadly bacteria that can grow at refrigeration temperatures, and in addition to producing lactic acid, the number of Listeria bacteria increase, which can make people sick. Pasteurization kills Listeria. Even though pasteurization kills the bacteria that can cause illness, there is still the chance of contamination AFTER pasteurization, so precautions must be made to protect ALL milk from exposure to potentially harmful bacteria.

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