Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Why Drinking Raw Milk Can Be Risky

Some consumers of raw milk from Pleasant Valley Dairy in Washington State have received an unpleasant bonus with their milk - a rather nasty microbe called Campylobacter jejuni. The Washington Department of Agriculture is warning consumers that raw milk from this dairy with a "sell by" date of 12/20 may be contaminated with Campylobacter and should be discarded. The State is reviewing its records of Campylobacter illness reports to determine whether any of them might be linked to this dairy.

Campylobacter competes annually with Salmonella for 1st place honors in the CDC's list of most frequent causes of food-borne disease. The microbe is usually found in raw poultry, unpasteurized dairy products, and contaminated waters. Household pets can also be carriers of Campylobacter.

Symptoms of Campylobacter infection take 2-5 days to develop; they include diarrhea, fever and cramps, last from 2 to 10 days, and usually disappear without treatment. Occasionally (fewer than 1 in 1,000 cases), the infection leads to Guillain-Barré syndrome, a disease of the nervous system. Approximately 10% of victims of Guillain-Barré will die.

Campylobacter infection is only one of several possible consequences of drinking raw milk or eating cheese or other dairy products made from raw milk. Stay tuned for my version of Letterman's "top 10" – "Ten Reasons To Avoid Raw Milk".

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