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Posted at 06:35 PM ET, 02/21/2012

CDC renews warning about raw milk

I’m sure I’ll get an earful from certain readers for this, but I can’t for the life of me see how any health-conscious person can think drinking raw — that is, unpasteurized — milk is a good idea.

That opinion’s bolstered by a CDC report issued Tuesday. A survey of dairy-related disease outbreaks from 1993 to 2006 found that 60 percent of reported illnesses related to dairy consumption involved unpasteurized milk. The numbers themselves aren’t huge — 1,571 cases of illness and 202 hospitalizations — but there were two deaths.

Illnesses related to consumption of pasteurized dairy products almost all involved contamination caused by mishandling after pasteurization. That’s something we consumers have little control over.

But we do have control over what kind of milk we put in our — and our children’s — mouths. The study found that 60 percent of the illnesses related to raw milk occurred among people younger than 20. The authors note that public-health agencies have a duty to protect those who are too young to make their own food choices.

The study also found that 75 percent of the outbreaks related to raw milk consumption took place in the 21 states where it was legal to sell raw milk products at the time; the study notes that seven states changed their laws during the study period.

Proponents of raw milk argue that unpasteurized milk is more nutritious and natural than pasteurized milk and that many more people are sickened by eating products such as leafy greens, deli meats and other foods. But the CDC study found that, unit per unit, raw milk caused 150 times more outbreaks and illnesses than were related to pasteurized milk.

If you’re still drinking raw milk (or consuming dairy products, such as cheese, made from unpasteurized milk), you might want to check out these videos featuring people whose lives have been deeply affected by their choice to buy raw milk.

As one of the speakers, California mom Mary McGonigle-Martin, whose then-7-year-old son was severely stricken by E. coli after drinking raw milk, says, “Raw milk is safe if there’s not a pathogen, but the chance of it having a pathogen, the risk is so huge, it doesn’t outweigh the benefit of making that choice for your family.”

Let’s hear from you, readers. Do you drink raw milk? How do you calculate the risk/benefit ratio?

By  |  06:35 PM ET, 02/21/2012

 
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