According to a new report from the Center for Disease Control, unpasteurized dairy products cause 840 times more illnesses than their pasteurized counterparts. The study, "Outbreak-Related Disease Burden Associated with Consumption of Unpasteurized Cow's Milk and Cheese," studied five years of available outbreak data, 2009 to 2014.
Figures indicate the number of outbreak-related illnesses and hospitalizations caused by the consumption of dairy average about 760 per year, 22 of those requiring hospitalization.
The study looked at 87 outbreaks of bacteria including include E. coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Listeria monocytogenes, resulting in 750 lab-confirmed illnesses and 215 hospitalizations.
Researchers found that unpasteurized milk, consumed by a paltry 3.2 percent of the population, and cheese, consumed by just 1.6 percent of the population, causes an astonishing 96 percent of illnesses caused by contaminated dairy products — almost 900 times more illnesses and 45 times more hospitalizations than pasteurized products.
In recent years, the number of states allowing the sale of unpasteurized milk, cheese and dairy products has grown, from 21 in 2004 to 30 in 2011. With the increased sale and popularity of unpasteurized dairy come greater risk for illness and outbreak, the study would indicate.
Not all, however, believe in the benefits of pasteurization and homogenization. Advocates of raw milk claim it's rich in beneficial bacteria, natural vitamins and food enzymes. Many small-scale and local dairy farmers also strongly support the raw milk movement, as do many natural health advocates.
It should also be noted that farms that offer raw milk products for sale often engage in weekly or monthly testing of their products to ensure that there are no harmful bacteria growing in sample batches.
The CDC, however, stands firm:
"There are no health benefits from drinking raw milk that cannot be obtained from drinking pasteurized milk that is free of disease-causing bacteria. The process of pasteurization of milk has never been found to be the cause of chronic diseases, allergies, or developmental or behavioral problems."
In the end, this study raises some very real concerns regarding unpasteurized dairy products, but we believe that you should be able to make your own decisions between unpasteurized and pasteurized products at your own discretion. You know your family best.
Does your family stick to pasteurized milk products only, or do you dabble in the raw milk trade?
This was originally published in May 2017.
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