TUESDAY, Feb. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Raw, or unpasteurized, milk
causes 150 times more dairy product-related disease outbreaks than
pasteurized milk. And states where the sale of raw milk is legal
have twice as many outbreaks as states where it is illegal,
according to a new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
"This study shows an association between state laws and the number of outbreaks and illnesses from raw milk products," Dr. Robert Tauxe, deputy director of CDC's division of foodborne, waterborne and environmental diseases, said in an agency news release.
The 13-year review looked at more than 120 dairy product-related
outbreaks that occurred in 30 states between 1993 and 2006. The
outbreaks caused more than 4,400 illnesses, 239 hospitalizations
and three deaths.
Raw milk products -- including cheese and yogurt -- caused 73 of
the outbreaks (60 percent) and most of the 239
Some people mistakenly believe that raw milk is a healthier
alternative to pasteurized milk, according to the U.S. Food and
Drug Administration. Its website debunks the notion that raw milk
is less likely than pasteurized milk to cause lactose intolerance,
an inability to digest milk products.
Unless milk is pasteurized -- heated to kill harmful bacteria --
bacteria can accumulate in collected milk, multiply and cause
illness, the researchers said.
The study found that 13 percent of patients in raw milk
outbreaks were hospitalized, compared with 1 percent of those made
ill by pasteurized milk products. This may be because raw milk
outbreaks were all caused by bacteria, such as E. coli O157, that
tend to provoke more severe illness, according to the study.
On the other hand, pasteurized milk and cheese outbreaks were
often caused by milder infections, such as norovirus and
Fifty-five of the outbreaks reviewed occurred in the 21 states
where it was legal to sell raw milk at the time, the CDC found.
Young people were much more likely to get sick from raw milk
products than pasteurized items. Where ages were available, people
younger than age 20 accounted for 60 percent of patients in raw
milk outbreaks, compared with 23 percent of patients in pasteurized
During the study period, about 2.7 trillion pounds of milk was
produced in the United States. By comparing that amount to the
estimated 27 billion pounds (1 percent) consumed raw, the study
authors determined that raw milk products cause 150 times more
outbreaks than pasteurized milk.
The study appears Feb. 21 in the journal
Emerging Infectious Diseases, published by the CDC.
It's impossible for consumers to tell if raw milk is safe to
drink by looking at, smelling, or tasting it, the CDC said.
"Restricting the sale of raw milk products is likely to reduce the number of outbreaks and can help keep people healthier. The states that allow sale of raw milk will probably continue to see outbreaks in the future," Tauxe said.
Study co-author Barbara Mahon, deputy chief of the CDC's Enteric
Diseases Epidemiology Branch, said in the news release: "While some
people think that raw milk has more health benefits than
pasteurized milk, this study shows that raw milk has great risks,
especially for children, who experience more severe illnesses if
they get sick.
"Parents who have lived through the experience of watching their child fight for their life after drinking raw milk now say that it's just not worth the risk," she added.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more about