Will raw milk kill you?

March 20, 2012
Volume 09    |   Issue 12

If you listen to the Centers for Disease Control, raw milk is one of the worst beverages you can drink. The agency says raw milk is 150 times more likely to cause food-borne illness than pasteurized milk. But what does that mean? And is it accurate?

Sally Fallon Morell, from the Weston A Price Foundation, is a leading advocate for raw dairy products. She says the CDC report is misleading. In fact, the agency cherry-picked the numbers it wanted to use. The CDC based its report on data it gathered from 1993 to 2006. Morell says the agency chose those years for one simple reason. They had a relatively low number of reported cases of foodborne illness for pasteurized dairy. The evidence supports her contention.

For instance, Morell says the authors didn’t use data from 2007. That year, 135 people contracted e. coli from pasteurized cheese. And another three people died from listeria-tainted pasteurized milk. Why didn’t the CDC run the study through 2007 when the numbers were readily available? Surely adding one more year to the study couldn’t hurt — or could it?

The agency also avoided the 1980s. During that decade, foodborne illness caused by pasteurized dairy was rampant. Pasteurized products caused tens of thousands of cases of foodborne illness. Take 1985, for instance. In that year, over 16,000 people contracted salmonellosis from pasteurized milk. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg for 1985. Over 165,000 Americans had some sort of illness caused by pasteurized dairy products.

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Obviously, the CDC didn’t want to include those numbers. But even among the years they did include, the agency skewed the numbers in favor of the pasteurized dairy industry. Morell said, “For the 14-year period that the authors examined, there was an average of 315 illnesses a year from all dairy products for which the pasteurization status was known. Of those, there was an average of 112 illnesses each year attributed to all raw dairy products and 203 associated with pasteurized dairy products.”

When you compare those 315 cases of foodborne illness each year to the total number of cases each year — almost 24,000 — you realize dairy is a very safe food. “Whether pasteurized or not,” says Morell, “dairy products are simply not a high-risk product.”

Since the CDC chose to limit its study to a small window of time, it was able to make a very scary statement against raw milk. But if you enlarge the time period, it’s clear this was nothing more than a scare tactic aimed at getting people to avoid the healthier raw products. Studies continue to confirm what we’ve known for years — raw dairy is far better for you than pasteurized dairy. Add homogenization to the pasteurization, and there’s really no comparison, as this process treats the products with a dangerous chemical.

What’s more, the number of people using raw dairy products is growing rapidly. But the number of illnesses is not.

The truth is you’re no more likely to get sick eating and drinking raw dairy as you are from eating raw veggies. If you buy your products from a source that takes care in how it handles the products, it’s unlikely you will ever have any problems. And you’ll have a much healthier product than the treated variety.

Remember, raw dairy products were declared illegal after a heavy lobbying effort from large dairy companies. The law was never based on actual harm or real science, only big dollars padding the pockets of unethical politicians. Don’t let their efforts win the day. If you can find raw dairy products, buy them. You’ll be much healthier in the long run.

Your voice of reason in Women's Health,



Morell, Sally Fallon. Westin Price Foundation, http://www.westonaprice.org.

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