Raw Milk Is Making People Sick

September 6th, 2014
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Milk: in western society it’s one of the most basic foods.  It usually comes from cows, but sometimes goats.   It also has a history of not always being safe to drink.   That’s because milk happens to be a good growth medium for bacteria.  The bacteria can get into the milk any number of ways.  It may simply be that while a cow’s utters are cleaned before milking, they are certainly not sterilized.

Thankfully, we have pasteurization.  Just a quick heat treatment and the milk is safe, with pathogenic bacteria reduced to levels that won’t cause illness.  The milk keeps longer this way too.

Considering this is a very basic safety precaution and one of the things that is the foundation of modern food safety, pasteurization has been a standard requirement for food safety regulations.  But many have fought to have their milk raw, just as it came from the utter (except having some extra time to let what is in it grow).  In some US states they have won their battles and now raw milk can be purchased in a number of states, although usually only through local suppliers.

The claims are similar to anti-vaccine and organic food claims.  It’s said that raw milk is healthier, that it cures various conditions or that pasteurization is causing lactose intolerance or some other condition.

Now that people have the right to drink raw milk, some are, predictably, getting very sick.

 

Via CNN:

Raw milk sickens 45 in Utah

Raw milk from Utah has sickened 45 people, according to the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.

The cases of campylobacteriosis have been linked to raw milk or cream purchased at Ropelato Dairy in Weber County, the department said in a statement Tuesday. Most of the infections occurred in people from Utah counties, though two were out-of-state residents from California and Idaho.

Inspectors suspended the dairy’s license to sell raw milk on August 4, after samples taken at the farm tested positive for campylobacter bacteria.

“What we’ve discovered is that an employee had not been thoroughly cleaning the udders of the cows,” Larry Lewis with the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food told CNN affiliate KSL. “That is introducing contamination, manure and feces that are in that area into the milk, which is a major problem.”

Campylobacteriosis is a common bacterial infection that causes diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Experts estimate it affects over 1.3 million Americans every year, with more cases happening during the summer months.

The illness typically lasts around a week, though some people with the bacteria don’t experience any symptoms at all. Most patients recover without treatment. People with weakened immune systems, such as infants or the elderly, are most at risk for a serious infection.

Via The Las Vegas Review Journal:

26 people test positive in tuberculosis investigation

An ongoing Las Vegas Valley tuberculosis probe shows the woman whose death launched the investigation may have contracted the disease from consuming unpasteurized milk products.

The 25-year-old woman died in July in a Southern California hospital after giving birth in Las Vegas to twins, including one who also died of TB. Local health officials say at least 26 people with whom the mother came in contact have tested positive for the disease.

Interviews with the woman’s family led investigators to believe bacteria in cheese or milk from Central or South America caused the infection, according to the Southern Nevada Health District’s chief health officer.

“We didn’t have a sample to test the product from the patient or the family,” Dr. Joseph Iser said Tuesday. Health officials aren’t sure whether the woman ate the dairy products locally or elsewhere.

The strain that killed her originates in cattle and comes from the bacteria mycobacterium bovis, Iser said. The federally funded National Center for Biotechnology Information says human infections from mycobacterium bovis are rare although difficult to track.

“The Food and Drug Administration does not allow the interstate transport of unpasteurized milk products for this and other reasons for health and safety,” Iser said.

Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed a bill earlier this year that would have legalized raw milk distribution in Nevada. Raw milk products are legal in other states.

Of the 26 people carrying TB after the Health District began testing, only two showed symptoms, which means they are contagious. They were isolated, or stayed at home, and health officials ensured they took medication to combat tuberculosis, Iser said.

 

It seems that this is often the result of the “back to nature” thinking.  It’s assumed that raw milk is what our bodies are meant to consume and that disease is the result of humans artificially tampering with something.  Of course, if you really want to do things as “Nature intended” we would not have adult humans drinking milk, and certainly not coming from cows.


This entry was posted on Saturday, September 6th, 2014 at 3:08 pm and is filed under Agriculture, Bad Science, Culture, Quackery. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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17 Responses to “Raw Milk Is Making People Sick”

  1. 1
    DV82XL Says:

    What makes this particularly stupid is that the raw milk crowd likes buying the product from small ‘organic’ farms, that are unlikely to use modern steam cleaned milking parlors, thus increasing the risk that their milk is contaminated.


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  2. 2
    L.Long Says:

    Drank raw milk from my farm for 18yrs. BUT…. as you have mentioned you have to be extra careful. My G’Pa insured the milk parlor was always clean, the udders were cleaned before milking, and the milk was directly pumped into a cooler. The cows were also inspected and tested for infections. The milk was also tested and our farm was certified good for consumption. IF you insist on raw milk then get it from a certified farm. Since drinking raw milk, pasteurized milk, and fake soya milk, there is no valid reason to drink raw milk. As kid I lived on the farm so it was next to free, in the city?? Why bother.


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  3. 3
    Jean Rochefort Says:

    Raw milk contains natural antibiotics, try to make yogurt with raw milk, you can’t, you must sterilize it fist by heating. So it’s not sure common germs that make you sick would survive in fresh raw milk if cleaning procedures are followed (as to tuberculosis, I don’t know). It’s more a problem of dirty versus clean, like with restaurants.

    The problem is compounded by the fact, at least here in France, that at farms, you can legally store fresh milk up to 3 days in a refrigerated & stirred tank before delivery to reduce collect truck frequency hence costs. Such an arrangement will cause no problem if milk is for factories where it is sterilized, pasteurized, dried… (depending on the germ counts of each truck) but not ideal if milk is drunk raw since a sick or dirty cow is not separated and may contaminate a whole batch. So raw milk should be for people who know their provider, not exactly the thing for “urban greenies” (do rural greenies exist ?). Or raw milk should all come from cows milked exclusivement by milking robots, which will prevent human errors, oh the irony of something “natural” obtained by robots!

    BTW, I don’t particularly like raw milk because it’s way to creamy but my wife and kids love it (I assume you must like it as a child to like it as an adult, like many other things in food culture). But I do homemade yogurt with raw milk and it’s really really delicious, and dirt cheap.


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  4. 4
    George Carty Says:

            Jean Rochefort said:

    (do rural greenies exist ?)

    The Amish?


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  5. 5
    DV82XL Says:

            Jean Rochefort said:

    Raw milk contains natural antibiotics, try to make yogurt with raw milk, you can’t, you must sterilize it fist by heating.

    It’s a bit more complex than that. The degree to which one must heat milk in the yogurt-making process does not pasteurize, nor are the enzymes deactivated by heating ‘natural antibiotics.’ The presence of these enzymes may inhibit bacterial growth but those bacteria are still present, and still very much alive.

    Pathogens present in unpasteurized milk can come from the animal itself, poor collection practices, or poor handling and storage, and unless you can control for all of these, you are taking a risk – it is that simple.


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  6. 6
    Anon Says:

    I wonder if irradiation might be able to solve some of the problems of raw milk (while also keeping the actual differences that cause some people to prefer it for non-bulls*** reasons), not that many of the idiots who buy it would like that idea.

            Jean Rochefort said:

    not exactly the thing for “urban greenies” (do rural greenies exist ?).

    Yes, they are those with enough money to buy a bit of land in the country (or on the fringes of a city where there is still green stuff around).

            George Carty said:

    The Amish?

    Nope, their motivations are very different from that of the green movement.


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  7. 7
    DV82XL Says:

            Anon said:

    I wonder if irradiation might be able to solve some of the problems of raw milk

    Probably.

    In the end the risks are just about the same as eating raw or undercooked meat: it’s not a given you will get sick, but the probability is far greater.


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  8. 8
    L.Long Says:

    Irradiation has shown itself to be a safe form of sterilization and I have sampled some of these types of foods. And the sterilization is good for as long as the container remains completely air tight.
    BUT…. ITS RADIATION!!!! THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!! OH!!!! THE HORROR!!!!
    I WILL NEVER BUY FOOD THAT HAS RADIATION!!!!!
    Which is why it is not used all that much because the scientifically DIM bulbs wont buy it.


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  9. 9
    DV82XL Says:

    On the subject of taste, this discussion has brought up a long forgotten childhood memory. When I was a kid back in the Fifties, one could tell every Spring and Fall when the milk started coming from animals that were out to pasture, and again when they went back on Winter silage. In fact there were those that claimed they could tell if the animals were grazing on clover or timothy, although I cannot say I ever could. The taste of the butter too was affected by this shift, and as a kid I did not care for these changes. Now the milk was indeed both pasteurized and homogenized, so it was not a question of that, and I suspect that some of the taste factors claimed as advantages for raw milk might be related to the cows diet. Modern dairy farms generally use maize boosted with added supplements year round, while those selling raw milk may use fresh vegetation and that would impact the flavor.


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  10. 10
    Jean Rochefort Says:

            DV82XL said:

    It’s a bit more complex than that. The degree to which one must heat milk in the yogurt-making process does not pasteurize, nor are the enzymes deactivated by heating ‘natural antibiotics.’

    I don’t know of other yogurt strains but mines (from supermarket 100ml jars) don’t culture to anything if the milk is not boiled (low temperature pasteurisation is ok but definitively not worth the hassle for a homemade thing). I’ve tried some “exotic” strains supposedly working with raw milk but the resulting yogurt is not enough firm, not reusable for later batches and most of all, tastes awfull. So raw milk contains natural antibiotics (producers call them leukocytes, ie white blood cells) not friendly with germs, yogurt culture included.
    Paradoxically, when leukocytes count is high, the milk producer is heavily penalized by his buyer because a high count means the cow has some internal infection and secretes more leukocytes in his body and of course in his milk. Go figure, I presume it’s because leukocytes are more easy to count compare to external germs like streptococus.

            DV82XL said:

    Pathogens present in unpasteurized milk can come from the animal itself, poor collection practices, or poor handling and storage, and unless you can control for all of these, you are taking a risk – it is that simple.

    Well it’s a two-way process. If you eat too much sterilized food, you don’t “train” your body to resist germs and you’re taking the risk of being less immune. When tourists are sick in third world countries after eating food, it’s precisely because of that: they live in a too clean environmment and become less immunised against pathogens. Consider raw milk or raw milk cheese a risk but also as some soft vaccine.


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  11. 11
    Jean Rochefort Says:

            DV82XL said:

    Modern dairy farms generally use maize boosted with added supplements year round, while those selling raw milk may use fresh vegetation and that would impact the flavor.

    Oh yes, the milk I get on spring, when the cows are outside eating a lot of flowers and fresh grass, I find it the hardest to drink when you are not used to it : too fat, too “smelly”. Our provider (my cousin in fact, lol) don’t give cows food so the cows produce less but cost less so all in all, the cost per liter is the same for a richer milk.
    On the contrary, in winters, the cows are inside and are supplemented with grains and other things, they are “pissing milk”. Raw milk is some sort of climate proxy, a totally different thing than the standardised and monotonous and no-surprise supermarket bottled milk.


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  12. 12
    DV82XL Says:

            Jean Rochefort said:

    I So raw milk contains natural antibiotics (producers call them leukocytes, ie white blood cells) not friendly with germs, yogurt culture included..

    Leukocytes are not ‘natural antibiotics,’ they are somatic cells and their presence has no impact on other flora in the milk. Their presence is a sign of mastitis due to an infected udder or due to physical trauma to the same. Milk producers are penalized among other reasons because these show up as protein on the standard IR testing protocol, but are not. Culturing yogurt is more impacted by other enzymes, and it is these that need to be denatured by heat.

            Jean Rochefort said:

    Well it’s a two-way process. If you eat too much sterilized food, you don’t “train” your body to resist germs and you’re taking the risk of being less immune.

    Rubbish. When tourists are sick in third world countries (and it is not something serious) it is because their gut flora are changing, and that will occur regardless of prior exposure to foodstuffs at home.

    Finally milk comes only from female animals that take the pronouns ‘she’ or ‘her’ not ‘he’ or ‘him.’


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  13. 13
    PsihoKekec Says:

    I don’t see what’s supposed to be the problem with raw milk and I certainly don’t understand why authorities in USA need to use such retarded measueres as drug bust style undercover operations to nab those that would sell the unpasterized milk to others. It’s kind of hard to get milk in markets that isn’t skimmed, so buying directly from farmer is the best option, you can pasteurize it yourself or make the curd and sour cream. Hell, you have the raw milk vending machines in most of the Europe.


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  14. 14
    AKA the A Says:

            L.Long said:

    Irradiation has shown itself to be a safe form of sterilization and I have sampled some of these types of foods. And the sterilization is good for as long as the container remains completely air tight.
    BUT…. ITS RADIATION!!!!

    THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!!

    OH!!!! THE HORROR!!!!
    I WILL NEVER BUY FOOD THAT HAS RADIATION!!!!!
    Which is why it is not used all that much because the scientifically DIM bulbs wont buy it.

    Have any data on the dose before the milk is considered safe? Being mostly water, I imagine the doses have to be pretty substantial to kill most of the bacteria, doesn’t is affect the taste?


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  15. 15
    DV82XL Says:

            PsihoKekec said:

    I don’t see what’s supposed to be the problem with raw milk .

    The issue seems to be the risk of transmitting TB more than anything. That and the fact that the major consumers of milk tend to be kids. We had an outbreak of meningitis around here as well that was traced to raw milk that killed on child and made several sick.

            AKA the A said:

    Have any data on the dose before the milk is considered safe? Being mostly water, I imagine the doses have to be pretty substantial to kill most of the bacteria, doesn’t is affect the taste?

    There are three levels of radiation used to treat foodstuffs. At the second level, called radio pasteurization, no detectable change in tast is apparent. UHT milk, with is treated by heat alone at very high temperature, there is a taste difference, but this is only used for milk that is to be stored without refrigeration for long periods.


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  16. 16
    Jeff Walther Says:

    When I was a kid (40 years ago) they were careful to teach us about some of the wonderful advances that society had made. Vitamin C/citrus to prevent scurvey. Iodine in salt to prevent rickets. Government meat and food inspection to stop tainted comestibles from going to market.

    The wonders of pasteurization and how milk could now be safely stored and transported much longer and further and more affordably, benefiting everyone by lowering costs and improving health, and reducing disease.

    And finally, the miracles of vaccination, where millions of kids (and adults) used to die or be permanently maimed by various diseases which, with a simple shot in the arm or bottom, were now just an unpleasant historical memory.

    Do they not teach these things in elementary school any more?


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  17. 17
    MikeCC Says:

            Jeff Walther said:

    …..

    Do they not teach these things in elementary school any more?

    no – they aren’t “new and exciting” any more like they were post WW2.

    To some degree (IMO) the current perceived backlash against science based health and welfare is due to a couple of generations having no idea how bad it used to be in our parents and grandparents time and before (for those at the tail end of het baby boomers and of a similar age)


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