Consuming Raw Milk Products a Growing, Dangerous Trend
Update 16 Dec 2005: The FDA has advised people not to drink raw milk, following an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in Washington state that has put several people in the hospital.
A Boston Globe article highlights a growing trend in the USA and other developed countries: drinking unpasteurized, "raw" milk. Without pasteurization (flash-heating), there's no assurance the milk is free of harmful bacteria like Salmonella.
Raw milk advocates say drinkers benefit from higher vitamin content and increased beneficial enzymes and bacteria; the environment benefits because the farms that produce the milk are friendlier to the environment; and raw milk sales help sustain local dairy farmers.
But Massachusetts state health officials aren't pleased with increased sales of raw milk and raw milk cheese.
Alfred DeMaria, director of communicable disease control for the state's Department of Public Health, warns that the dangers are indeed real.
''Pasteurization was invented because milk was a real source of human disease up until the 20th century, including TB and typhoid. The reason we don't see these outbreaks anymore is [that] most milk is pasteurized....There's no doubt [raw milk is] a dangerous food. People make their own decisions, but they're doing something hazardous," said DeMaria.
Besides drinking raw milk, there's cheese to be careful about. Hispanic immigrants to the USA are eating meals with queso fresco soft cheese made from raw milk. Recently, outbreaks of tuberculosis and listeriosis have resulted from eating queso fresco made from raw milk cheese, and one child died in New York after eating cheese infected with Mycobacterium bovis.
The FDA issued a warning in March about foods using raw milk cheeses. Here's the core of the warning:
FDA recommends that consumers do not eat any unripened raw milk soft cheeses from Mexico, Nicaragua, or Honduras. Data show that they are often contaminated with pathogens. FDA further recommends that consumers not purchase or consume raw milk soft cheeses from sources such as flea markets, sellers operating door-to-door or out of their trucks or shipped or carried in luggage to them from Mexico, Nicaragua, or Honduras. This includes cheeses made at home by individuals.