Health Department Warns about Raw Milk Risks

For Immediate Release: March 7, 2007
Contact: Communication Office
802-863-7281

BURLINGTON – The Vermont Department of Health is reminding Vermonters of the dangers of drinking milk that has not been pasteurized, after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a national reminder to consumers on March 1.

From 1998 through 2005, CDC identified 45 outbreaks of foodborne illness that were traced to unpasteurized milk or cheese. These outbreaks accounted for 1,007 illnesses, 104 hospitalizations, and two deaths.

Raw milk potentially contains a wide variety of harmful bacteria – including salmonella, E. coli, listeria, campylobacter and brucella.

“Consuming raw milk may be harmful to your health,” said Cort Lohff, MD, state epidemiologist for the Vermont Department of Health. “The Vermont Department of Health has investigated sporadic cases of bacterial infections traced to raw milk over the years, and people occasionally need to be reminded of the danger of bacterial infection resulting from raw milk consumption.”

The Health Department has also issued reminders to local school officials that schoolchildren on field trips to dairy farms should not be allowed to drink raw milk.

Symptoms of illness caused by contaminated raw milk may include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, headache and body ache. 

Most healthy people will recover from illness caused by harmful bacteria in raw milk within a short period of time. However, some individuals can develop symptoms that are chronic, severe, or even life-threatening. Illnesses caused by pathogens found in raw milk can be especially severe for pregnant women, the elderly, infants, young children and people with weakened immune systems.

Since 1987, FDA has required all milk packaged for human consumption be pasteurized before delivery into interstate commerce. The FDA “Pasteurized Milk Ordinance” is the accepted operating guideline for the handling and production of milk and dairy products in Vermont.

Proponents of drinking raw milk often claim that raw milk is more nutritious than pasteurized milk. Research has shown that there is no meaningful nutritional difference between pasteurized and raw milk. 

For more information visit “Food Safety & Raw Milk” at:
http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/rawm-toc.html

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