HEALTHY LIVING

Raw Milk Causes More Dairy-Related Illness Than Pasteurized: CDC

02/22/2012 05:44 pm ET

Dairy-related illness is caused more often from raw, or unpasteurized, milk than pasteurized milk, according to a new government report.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study showing that the risk of getting ill from consuming raw milk is 150 times higher than if you consume pasteurized milk, according to the study.

The report also showed that in states where selling raw milk is legal, outbreaks of food-borne illness are more than twice as high than in states where raw milk sales are illegal. Bloomberg Businessweek reported that 20 states currently have some form of ban on selling raw milk.

The findings were an aggregation of data collected on dairy-related outbreaks between 1993 and 2006. During that time period, there were 121 outbreaks, with 60 percent of them from raw milk products.

Not only were there more outbreaks related to raw milk, they were also more serious. The study showed that 13 percent of raw milk-related outbreaks resulted in hospitalization, while 1 percent of pasteurized milk-related outbreaks resulted in the same. The researchers said that the increase in hospitalization may be because bacteria like E. coli O157 were the cause of most raw milk-related outbreaks, which can result in more severe illness. Norovirus and Staphylococcus aureus were the more common causes of the pasteurized milk-product outbreaks, which are comparably mild infections, researchers said.

"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," said study researcher Dr. Barbara Mahon, M.D., M.P.H., deputy chief of CDC's DFWED Enteric Diseases Epidemiology Branch.

Pasteurized milk is exposed to blasts of heat to kill pathogens, like E. coli and salmonella, that cause food poisoning, TIME reported. But raw milk supporters say that heating the milk also kills the good stuff in milk, such as good bacteria, and proteins and enzymes that help with digestion, according to TIME.

The nonprofit Weston A. Price Foundation, which advocates for raw milk, said that the findings should be taken with a grain of salt, saying that there are very low numbers of dairy-related foodborne illnesses to start with. [You can read their full statement here.]

The Los Angeles Times reported that raw milk supporters point to evidence in some journals showing that raw milk consumption is linked with a lower risk and/or rate of eczema and allergies. However, studies in journals have shown an exact opposite effect.

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