Mother warns against feeding raw milk to children

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“There’s just an inherit risk in feeding your children raw milk that you can’t ― you can’t ― ignore."

That’s what one mother told Oregon Public Broadcasting this week.

Jill, who asked not to be identified on-air, described the ordeal that her two-year-old daughter has had to endure since becoming sick from raw milk. 

"She had strokes early on and pressure in the brain, and most recently had emergency surgery to remove some dead bowel and colon. And now has an ostomy, that will get reversed in six to eight weeks," Jill told OPB News. Click here to download and listen to the the full show, which also featured interviews with a local raw milk producer and health officials. 

Raw milk producers and advocates argue that the benefits of drinking raw milk outweigh the risks and that the outbreak in Oregon (involving others besides Jill's daughter) is an anomaly.

For Jill, who will be celebrating Mother’s Day beside her daughter’s hospital bed, the risks outweigh the benefits.  

“No matter how good of a farmer and how good of a dairy operation you think they have, there’s always a slim chance that there’s going to be bacteria in that [raw] milk. The only way to make sure there’s not that chance is by pasteurization. And there’s going to be more outbreaks,” she said in the interview.  “To watch my daughter struggle for her life for 28 days so far, it’s not worth it.”

A similar outbreak in Missouri has also been linked to raw milk, and like Jill’s daughter, three children were hospitalized after developing symptoms hemolytic uremic syndrome, a complication of E. coli infection that leads to kidney failure.  

One veteran dairy farmer from central Missouri voiced his concern for the outbreaks linked to raw milk and how raw milk problems could be linked to his pasteurized products, giving all dairy products a bad reputation.

Earlier this year a campylobacteriosis outbreak sickened more than 78 people, including a three-year old, across four states. The outbreak was linked to raw milk sold from a farm near Chambersburg, Pa.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that between 1998 and 2009 it found about 1800 illness related to raw milk. Of those illnesses, 200 required hospitalization and two were fatal. A report released by the CDC in February showed that the rate of outbreaks caused by raw milk was 150 times greater than outbreaks linked to pasteurized milk.   

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Dr. Mauck    
Sullivan, IL  |  May, 11, 2012 at 08:44 AM

Jill stated that "there’s always a slim chance that there’s going to be bacteria in that [raw] milk." No, there is ALWAYS bacteria in raw milk. It does not come out of the cow sterile and just might be carrying listeria, dangerous strains of e. coli or campylobacter or salmonella etc., etc. If you drink unpasteurized milk, you're an idiot. If you give it to your child, you're a child abuser.

roger scholten    
weybridge  |  May, 11, 2012 at 08:58 AM

Nice choice of words. All driven by fear.. I have some choice words for people like you but Ill just keep them to my self. Keep drinking your nasty cooked milk and hope all your meat is fully cooked, oh maybe you should cook all your fruit and vegetables to, Cook everything you eat just to be safe. Now that living

Minnesota  |  May, 11, 2012 at 10:08 AM

My heart goes out to those -- especially the children -- who are sick. Our daughter Martha was hospitalized when she was 16 months old with HUS from e.coli. It is a painful experience for the child and heart-wrenching for parents. In our situation, our little daughter picked up the bacteria likely in our farm environment -- not raw milk or under-cooked hamburger. Having personally experienced almost losing our daughter, I can't comprehend why anyone would put their children at risk.

Wisconsin  |  May, 11, 2012 at 11:21 AM

I have been drinking raw milk my whole life and never been sick a day in my life i am 54 years old. Get a grip people don't buy milk from farms that look like crap buy from farms that are clean

wisconsin  |  May, 12, 2012 at 10:09 AM

I hardly ever get sick also. The diffrence is, i never drank raw milk. I believe that genetics play a vital role in you ability to build ammunity. I have three children. I have worked in the dairy industry all my life, and I also know how easy it is for human error. Thats why I will never feed my kids raw milk. I think that the people should do more resurch, and not focus on what your family has done for years, or what the media says. I dont think that even one human life is worth the risk. God bless the families that have to suffer!

New York  |  May, 11, 2012 at 11:34 AM

I grew up on a dairy farm. I have drank raw milk my whole life and never had any bad results. Never all the heath problems that I see other people have, never miss a day of work and I'm 48. I think to many people now a days have lived in a bubble, protected from so much that their immune system fails. Along with the over use of antibiotics. Just my thoughts.

Joann Keenan    
Pennsylvania  |  May, 11, 2012 at 12:09 PM

When I was a child we had raw milk delivered every other day to our house in town. Then I married a dairy farmer! My children and grandchildren have always drunk raw milk. Never sick, never broken bones, and have beautiful teeth. There is too much use of antibiotics prescribed by doctors and all this antibacterial soap and antibiotics in the food that is available. I do feel badly for those that do get sick from drinking raw milk and especially for the little girl mentioned in the article and wish her a complete recovery. But my family drinks the milk we produce.

Northwest  |  May, 11, 2012 at 12:21 PM

Our M.D., who knew we had a milk cow, recommended that we put our premature baby on her milk "as soon as possible. Ours is a veterinary household, whose cows are healthy and tested and all barns and equipment are clean, clean, clean. Four children later, and all our lives, we are still drinking and using fresh milk.

Dr. Mauck    
Sullivan, IL  |  May, 11, 2012 at 12:56 PM

Roger: I hardly think my "cooked" milk is nasty. And yes my meat is heated to the point that pathogenic bacteria are killed. Am I to infer that you eat raw meat as well as unpasteurized milk? Now that would be nasty. I consume both raw and cooked vegetables and fruit. Many nutrients such as lycopene in tomatoes are absorbed much more completely if the food is cooked. There are people who do drink raw milk their whole life and they suffer no ill effects. Unfortunately, if a given population of people all drink raw milk, some WILL get sick from doing so. It's a bit like Russian roulette. Any supposed benefit from unpasteurized milk is offset by the vastly greater risks of consuming it.

Joe Dairyman    
NM  |  May, 13, 2012 at 12:24 AM

My family has been Dairying since the 1800s. We have been drinking milk from our Dairy ever since I can remember and I'm now 50. I don't believe I have ever gotten sick from milk but I feel I'm immune to our milk. I have had a friend one time that thought he go sick for drinking our raw milk. The general public does not drink milk from the same cows every day their whole life. Every week I read in NMPF about some getting sick from raw milk! Wake up folks they started pasteurization of milk for a reason. Traditional milk is heated up just enough to kill harmfull bacteria. The nutrients are still there. Unlike "organic milk" where they Use the UTH proccess to sterilize the milk to gain a longer shelf life. I think pasteurizing all milk is in the best interest of the consumer & and the Dairy industry. It's just not worth the risk for the general public to drink raw milk.

Kate Smithyman    
CA  |  June, 15, 2012 at 01:28 PM

One of the elements that needs to be considered in this is the growth rate of bacteria in the raw milk that is bottled for sale. Most of the people that wrote in that they didn't get sick were dairy producers drinking raw milk on the farm. Although e.coli and other bacteria may have been in that milk, it may not have been at a concentration (ppm) that was great enough to harm you. I would imagine that you drank the milk directly and did not store it for long periods of time or ship it anywhere. Bottled raw milk poses a greater risk because if any amount of the bacteria is present it will grow (in a fairly small container) any chance it can get. Bacteria doubles it's population every time it reproduces. So if the bottled raw milk was at the edge of a refrigerated shelf in the store for a few hours, or if it the end consumer had a long drive home from the store, or let it it sit out on the counter for a 1/2 hr while she put the other groceries away, that bacteria could have the time to multiply to dangerous levels. I love food, and I eat raw oysters, beef tartar, and sushi. I don't think those products should be banned. But they are risky and can be fatal to young children and those with compromised immune systems. Due to the nature of the product I can understand the controversy. I like the freedom to choose my foods, even risky ones, but there is much less of a chance of a mother feeding sushi or raw oysters to a two year old, than there is with a milk product.

Ok  |  February, 13, 2013 at 07:08 AM

I agree Joann. If people would just think about what kind of food your putting into your body from the store. Geneticly inhanced foods with preservitives that can cause major issues, diet soda can cause symptoms like MS. How can anyone link anything to one thing the person eats? If you go to McDonalds you are raising the chance of your child becoming obease or to have high colesterol. Look at the garbage they put in vaccines for our children. We have a family cow and we drink her milk and we have no issues in this house.

Dr. Garcia    
South Dakota  |  July, 09, 2013 at 11:33 AM

Because of current best management practices milk is safer than in the past. Having said this, we have to understand cows live and are managed in an environment that's ladden with bacteria. Even when one follows strict milking protocols and high hygienic milk harvesting practices chances are bacteria may find their way into the milk. Pasteurization takes care of that haphazard event. Anyone is free to choose what he wants to eat or drink. The problem comes when we impose our personal choices on those than can't yet decide for themselves. Anyone can choose to ride a Harley without a helmet, but if a child rides with you and gets hurt, who's to blame?

the cleaner    
MN  |  December, 06, 2013 at 09:23 AM

you would have to be a real moron to give a toddler raw milk. i suppose you don't vaccinate either.

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