The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) admonished the authors of a McGill University study for a research article falsely describing milk as a high-risk factor in spreading foodborne illness. NMPF said the study’s authors need to clarify that any significant dairy-related food safety risk is only associated with the consumption of raw milk, not commercially available dairy foods sold in the United States and other developed nations.
Prepared by a graduate student at McGill University of Canada and published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology, the study compared the nutritional profiles of four imitation dairy beverages and conventional cow’s milk. The research demonstrated that none of the plant-based imitations replicates the nutritional benefits of real milk. However, the study also published inaccurate claims that cow’s milk “has been associated to cause wide spread disease outbreaks around the world.”
In a letter to the study’s authors, NMPF rebuked the claim, saying it is actually raw, unpasteurized milk that is a demonstrable source of pathogens.
Dr. Beth Briczinski, NMPF’s vice president for dairy foods and nutrition, said the media attention to this inaccurate claim was disconcerting and had to be addressed.
“Cow’s milk is one of the most regulated food products on the market today,” she said. “To publish such an egregious claim in a scientific journal could damage consumer trust in this great beverage, which is why we insist that the study’s authors issue a correction to the journal article and revise its press release immediately.”
The public health risk associated with raw milk is supported by scientific evidence spanning over one hundred years. Raw milk is a key vehicle in the transmission of human pathogens like E. coli, Listeria and Salmonella, the letter said. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have reported that over 70 percent of foodborne outbreaks involving dairy are attributed to raw milk. It is illegal in both Canada and many U.S. states.
“There is no basis for your statement linking milk consumption to worldwide foodborne outbreaks,” said the letter. “Such a comment has the potential to do incredible, unjustified harm to our industry and has the potential to cause fear in consumers who are seeking nutrient-dense and safe products for themselves and their families.”