CDC cautions public about raw milk consumption

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CDC cautions public about raw milk consumption

The agency notes that majority of dairy-related illnesses are linked to raw milk.
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Apr 01, 2012

ATLANTA, GA. — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is warning the public about risks surrounding consumption of unpasteurized milk. The agency notes that the majority of dairy-related illnesses in a recent study were linked to consumption of raw milk.

The rate of illnesses caused by consuming unpasteurized milk was 150 times greater than those associated with pasteurized milk, according to the new study. Conducted over 13 years, the research was published in the CDC journal Emerging Infectious Diseases. The study's researchers investigated 121 dairy-related disease outbreaks from 1993 to 2006 across the United States.

In total, the study documented 4,413 illnesses, 239 hospitalizations and three deaths. In 60 percent of the cases, CDC says state health officials determined raw milk products—including unpasteurized cheese and yogurt—were the cause. Most of the hospitalizations in the study were attributed to consumption of raw-milk, and 75 percent of these illnesses occurred in states where it was legal to sell raw-milk products. CDC notes that seven states changed laws pertaining to raw milk during the study period.

"This study shows an association between state laws and the number of outbreaks and illnesses from raw-milk products," explains Robert Tauxe, MD, MPH, deputy director of CDC's Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases (DFWED). "Restricting the sale of raw-milk products is likely to reduce the number of outbreaks and can help keep people healthier."

The study found that illnesses associated with raw milk were more severe than illnesses associated with pasteurized milk. Thirteen percent of patients becoming ill from drinking raw milk were hospitalized compared to 1 percent of patients who consumed pasteurized milk. While raw-milk outbreaks were most often associated with E. coli O157, outbreaks from pasteurized dairy products were most often caused by norovirus and Staphylococcus aureus, the study notes.

The full study can be found at cdc.gov/eid/.