Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Ten Reasons To Avoid Raw Milk - Part One

Yesterday, I posted a warning about raw milk in Washington State that is being recalled due to the presence of Campylobacter. I promised to talk about the reasons to avoid drinking raw milk or eating other dairy products (such as cheese or yogurt) made from unpasteurized milk.
Reason #10. Rabies
Rabies is usually present in the saliva of an infected animal and is transmitted by a bite. But there is some question as to whether rabies might also be present in milk. In the 1990’s a total of 88 people in Massachusetts received rabies vaccine treatment after drinking raw milk from a cow that later was diagnosed with rabies.

Reason #9. Mycobacterium tuberculosis and M. bovis
These bacteria can be transmitted in the milk of infected cattle and cause tuberculosis.

Reason #8. Mycobacterium paratuberculosis
This species causes Johne’s disease in cattle and is believed to trigger Crohn’s disease.

Reason #7. Chronic Diarrhea Syndrome (Brainerd's Disease)
It’s not always possible to figure out what causes a disease. In 1983-84, more than 120 people in Brainerd, Minnesota were afflicted with chronic diarrhea lasting at least one year for many of them. While the precise cause of the illness was never discovered, the cases were clearly linked to raw milk from a single dairy. Other outbreaks of this syndrome have been reported since the 1980s - always linked to drinking raw milk or untreated water. The cause is still a mystery.

Reason #6. Brucella abortus
This pathogen has been mostly, but not completely, eradicated from cattle in the U.S., Canada and many other developed countries, thanks in part to the development of a vaccine and to the culling of diseased cattle. Unfortunately, it remains a serious problem in many less-developed countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, including Mexico. Undulant fever, which is transmitted in the milk of infected cattle, is a long-term, chronic disease that is difficult to treat and is known to cause miscarriages. The bacteria are killed by pasteurization, but are very content to survive in cheeses made from unpasteurized milk.

Tomorrow, I'll cover Reasons #1-5.


  1. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

    we are all going to die panic panic

    bacteria and deceases are all around us if we spend all of the time stressing about what deceases we might get from X, Y or Z, then we will just get by the car we didn't see.

  2. In re reason #8 of your “Ten Reasons to Avoid Raw Milk—Part One”:

    As a Specialist Microbiologist, Ms. Entis, it is important that you become aware that the serious pathogen Mycobacterium avium subspecies Paratuberculosis (MAP) survives pasteurization.

    Put another way, so that scientific error is not cultured on this blog, it should be clearly stated: The PASTEURIZED MILK on your ordinary supermarket shelves has been known for years to be a source of MAP.

    Thus, MAP-infected milk has nothing at all to do with whether the milk is fresh (“raw”) or has been subjected to standard industrial heat destruction (“pasteurized”). Instead, the criterion is whether the cow or herd from which the milk came is infected with Johne’s disease. Both cows and milk can and should be tested for MAP. I have read that 22-40% of the large commercial herds in the U.S. are estimated to be infected with Johne’s disease, but the FDA and USDA are smugly satisfied with their knowledge that all this MAP-infected milk is sitting on your grocery store shelves and will even tell you they doubt it’s a public health problem!

    As a Crohn’s disease survivor, readers need to be aware that Crohn’s disease is not automatically chronic, incurable, or fatal, despite what drug companies and doctors like to say to despairing patients. Food safety goes beyond the single variable equation of testing for whether or not a pathogenic organism is present, and Crohn’s disease presents one case in point: While most gastroenterologists know to tell their Crohn’s patients to avoid (pasteurized) dairy like it’s the plague due to its highly allergenic potential, only a few doctors know that grass-fed, unprocessed fresh raw colostrum (the first pre-milk secretion after the cow gives birth to her baby calf) can actually cure Crohn’s disease!

    (My supplier:

    I only wish I had known this life-saving gem of traditional wisdom before I was reduced to a rail-thin thread with Kwashiorkor. But now that you know too, please share the wealth and HELP AMERICA SAVE OUR RAW MILK! (See to read about California’s government-created crisis in response to 80 years without a raw milk food-poisoning incident.)

  3. Thank you, Ms. Reifschneider for posting such a detailed comment.

    You are quite correct. Johne's disease, caused by M. Paratuberculosis, is a major, on-going problem in dairy herds. There is no cure and no treatment available, other than to cull infected calves and cows. Unfortunately, until a cow is fairly far advanced in its disease, detection methods are not very reliable. USDA is trying to encourage herd testing, and also trying to encourage dairy farmers to take measures to minimize transmission of Johne's disease.

    As for survival of pasteurization, you are also correct that M. Paratuberculosis is more resistant to heat than most other pathogens. It's numbers, however, are reduced approximately 7-fold by pasteurization, according to a study published this year in Applied and Environmental Microbiology (vol. 73, no. 13, pp 4185-90).

    You should also be aware that M. paratuberculosis can be passed from cow to calf IN THE COLOSTRUM. That is one way in which calves become infected to begin with.

    There is a vaccine available to protect calves from acquiring Johne's disease, but it's only partly effective.

    Neither FDA nor USDA are satisfied with the present situation. USDA, which has primary responsibility for this area, has research projects underway. You can find out more if you do a subject search on the USDA website.

    As for Crohn's, the link between the disease and M. Paratuberculosis is an indirect one. Have a look at my prior post on Crohn's.

  4. I have to disagree with you. I grew up on a dairy farm, and we drank raw milk all the time. In fact, milk (goat and cow) is drunk raw by most rural peoples who have ready access to dairy worldwide, even to this day. The issue isn't the milk, it's the processing and storage, and in my opinion, the benefits of raw milk far outweigh the potential problems, which are processing problems. Rather than decry raw milk because it has risks, we should regulate the dairy industry much more strictly. Raw milk processing is light years more sanitary than regular milk processing because it has to be.

    As an adult, I gradually stopped drinking milk some time ago (but still eat dairy), but noticed that on the rare occasion that I did have some, I'd get a knot in my stomach. I took this to mean I was starting to develop an intolerance to milk. I went back to raw milk just as a test (I live in CA, so I can buy it at Whole Foods), and found, just like I suspected, that I was fine, and now I drink raw milk again, probably a quart a week.

    I'm not some birth-of-the-earth health food nut, but I do believe that after 5000 years of recorded history, if something were bad for us to eat, we would have stopped eating it a long time ago. Which is why I NEVER bought the screeds against eggs, or chocolate, or any of the dietary evils of late, which of course have been proven totally false. Large centralized farms have made distribution and storage of perishables a problem, so we have to modify our foods to survive transport and lengthy storage and this is how our foods go from historically healthy, to very unhealthy.

    I'm sure you know this already, but to me the most revealing difference between raw and pasteurized milk is that when you leave raw milk unrefrigerated, it sours, and is still edible. As it sours, it eventually turns into cheese. Pasteurized milk, on the other hand, simply rots when left out, because it's dead to start with. Also, you have to re-add the enzymes killed by pasteurization to make cheese out of it. As I get older, I don't trust foods that are made from manufactured ingredients (like high fructose corn syrup, as opposed to raw sugar or honey). Although I still like McDonald's fries, but only very occasionally.

    I think you'll find that as time goes on perhaps in the next 20 years or so, raw milk will be proven to be the healthy food that it is, and fewer and fewer states will restrict its sale. I say this because this has happened to nearly every food that 20th century America has said was bad for you, and pasteurized milk is almost the last hold out of the 19th century industrialization of the food industry.

  5. Wow, apparently my youth was fraught with danger that I didn't even know about! I spent 18 yrs of my life drinking raw goat milk and cheese from our own goats, and drank raw milk at my aunt's farm whenever I visited that was scooped out of the cooler fresh daily before the milk truck came to pick it up. Its amazing that I'm still alive to tell of it!

  6. There is, in my opinion, a significant difference between drinking raw milk freshly-obtained from an animal you know to be clean and healthy and drinking bottled raw milk delivered to you, purchased at a store, or sold a day or two after it was harvested from the animal.

    I am planning a series "Down On The Farm" to discuss precisely this issue and also to talk about meat, eggs, poultry and produce. I hope that you'll watch for it and offer your comments as you see appropriate.

    Thanks for visiting my blog

  7. Ketil : you only got ramped up about this article cos you're a massive milk lover! We know.

    In response to the actual scare-mongering literature to which you refer... All hail raw produce, and don't let anyone scare you any different!

  8. How much has the dairy industry paid you to write this? Either that or they have just brainwashed another blogger.


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