Is Raw Milk Safe for Babies?

 

The biggest concern parents have about making homemade formula is that it is based on raw milk which, according to medical orthodoxy, is a source of contamination and disease. The only possible way to protect our children, they say, is to be sure the milk is pasteurized.

The chart below was drawn up for a Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors vote on permitting raw milk in the County. (The vote was favorable, by the way, and raw milk is once again available in Los Angeles.) Except for a brief hiatus in 1990, raw milk has always been for sale commercially in California, usually in health food stores, although I can remember a period when it was even sold in grocery stores. Millions of people consumed commercial raw milk during that period and although the health department kept an eagle eye open for any possible evidence of harm, there is not a single proven case of raw milk causing illness. During the same period, there were many instances of contamination in pasteurized milk, some of which resulted in death. There have also been many instances of contamination of other foods, including baby formula. In fact, if we withdrew from the market every food type responsible for a case of food poisoning, there would be virtually nothing left to eat. But only raw milk has been singled out for general removal from the food supply.

Both raw and pasteurized milk harbor bacteria but the bacteria in raw milk is the healthy bacteria of lactic-acid fermentation while the bacteria in pasteurized milk is the bacteria of spoilage. And the overall bacteria count of milk produced under clean conditions is much lower than that of pasteurized milk. Both raw and pasteurized milk contain E. coli, normally a benign microorganism. The most likely source of the new strains of virulent E. coli is genetically engineered soy, fed to cows in large commercial dairies. If there is any type of milk likely to harbor these virulent breeds, it is commercial pasteurized milk.

Back in the days when scientists at our universities did real research, they compared the health of children fed raw or pasteurized milk. Children fed raw milk have more resistance to TB, scurvy, flu, diphtheria, pneumonia, asthma, allergic skin problems and tooth decay. In addition, their growth and calcium absorption was superior. (www.realmilk.com/abstractsmilk.)

Of course, as with all foods, raw milk should be whole milk (because the butterfat contains important antimicrobial factors0, it must come from healthy cows, and it should be carefully handled and stored. The same technology that we use to pasteurize our milk also allows us to keep raw milk fresh and clean. If you are buying directly from a farmer, be sure that the cows are mostly on pasture and that the barn is kept clean. The milk should go directly from the milking machine into a stainless steel tank or clean containers and be kept chilled. It should be used within a period of one week, after which it will begin to go sour (although it is not dangerous when it does so). With these precautions, raw milk is not only healthy but a safe food for all members of the family, even babies.

To find raw milk in your area, visit www.realmilk.com or contact your local chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation.

 

REPORTED OUTBREAKS OF FOOD BORNE ILLNESS

RAW MILK:
WARNING LABEL

PASTEURIZED MILK:
NO WARNING LABEL

OTHER FOODS:
NO WARNING LABEL

No outbreaks of human illness from consumption of raw milk in California.

1997, 28 persons ill from Salmonella in California, ALL FROM PASTEURIZED MILK.

Massachusetts, June 1996, 38 persons ill and possibly contributing to one death from food contaminated with Salmonella served in a Wendy’s restaurant.

1996, 46 persons ill from Campylobacter and Salmonella in California.

Idaho, September 1995, 11 people ill due to E. coli 0157:H7 traced to food eaten in a Chili’s restaurant in Boise.

No outbreaks of human illness from consumption of raw milk in California.

1994, 105 persons ill from E. coli and Listeria in California

Florida, August 1995, 850 people ill from Salmonella newport bacteria in chicken served at Margarita y Amigos restaurant in West Palm Beach.

March of 1985 19,660 confirmed cases of Salmonella typhimurium illness FROM CONSUMING PROPERLY PASTEURIZED MILK. Over 200,000 people ill from Salmonella typhimurium in PASTEURIZED MILK

Utah, January 1995, 96 people ill from hepatitis A traced to an employee of a Taco Bell restaurant in Salt Lake City

No outbreaks of human illness from consumption of raw milk in California.

1985, 142 cases and 47 deaths traced to PASTEURIZED Mexican-style cheese contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Listeria monocytogenes SURVIVES PASTEURIZATION!

Washington, DC, August 1994, 56 people ill and 20 hospitalized from Salmonella in Hollandaise sauce.

1985, 1500 persons ill from Salmonella infection

Georgia, October 1993, one dead, 7 others ill from botulism in canned cheese sauce.

No outbreaks of human illness from consumption of raw milk in California.

August of 1984 approximately 200 persons became ill with a Salmonella typhimurium from CONSUMING PASTEURIZED MILK

Illinois, June 1993, 41 people ill, 25 hospitalized from Salmonella in food served at a Mexican restaurant.

November of 1984, another outbreak of Salmonella typhimurium illness from CONSUMING PASTEURIZED MILK

Oregon, March 1993, 48 people ill from E. coli 0157:H7 in mayonnaise served at Sizzler restaurant.

No outbreaks of human illness from consumption of raw milk in California.

1983, over 49 persons with Listeria illness have been associated with the consumption of PASTEURIZED MILK in Massachusetts.

An additional 50 cases of illness caused by E. coli 0157:H7 bacteria in food served in Sizzler’s restaurants in Oregon and Washington were reported to CDC in 1993.

1993, 28 persons ill from Salmonella infection

The western US, December 1992 to January 1993, 700 people ill from E. coli 0157:H7 in hamburgers served at Jack-in-the-Box restaurants in Washington, Idaho, Nevada and California. Nearly 100 of the victims developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a serious complication resulting from E. coli 0157:H7 infection, and four children died.

No outbreaks of human illness from consumption of raw milk in California

1982, 172 persons ill (100 hospitalized) from a three Southern state area from PASTEURIZED MILK.

1982, over 17,000 persons became ill with Yersinia enterocolitica from PASTEURIZED MILK bottled in Memphis, Tennessee.

Update:

REPORTED OUTBREAKS OF FOOD BORNE ILLNESS
RAW MILK:
WARNING LABEL
PASTEURIZED MILK:
NO WARNING LABEL
OTHER FOODS:
NO WARNING LABEL
No outbreaks of human illness from consumption of raw milk in California. 1997, 28 persons ill from Salmonella in California, ALL FROM PASTEURIZED MILK. Massachusetts, June 1996, 38 persons ill and possibly contributing to one death from food contaminated with Salmonella served in a Wendy’s restaurant.
1996, 46 persons ill from Campylobacter and Salmonella in California. Idaho, September 1995, 11 people ill due to E. coli 0157:H7 traced to food eaten in a Chili’s restaurant in Boise.
No outbreaks of human illness from consumption of raw milk in California. 1994, 105 persons ill from E. coli and Listeria in California Florida, August 1995, 850 people ill from Salmonella newport bacteria in chicken served at Margarita y Amigos restaurant in West Palm Beach.
March of 1985 19,660 confirmed cases of Salmonella typhimurium illness FROM CONSUMING PROPERLY PASTEURIZED MILK. Over 200,000 people ill from Salmonella typhimurium in PASTEURIZED MILK Utah, January 1995, 96 people ill from hepatitis A traced to an employee of a Taco Bell restaurant in Salt Lake City
No outbreaks of human illness from consumption of raw milk in California. 1985, 142 cases and 47 deaths traced to PASTEURIZED Mexican-style cheese contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Listeria monocytogenes SURVIVES PASTEURIZATION! Washington, DC, August 1994, 56 people ill and 20 hospitalized from Salmonella in Hollandaise sauce.
1985, 1500 persons ill from Salmonella infection Georgia, October 1993, one dead, 7 others ill from botulism in canned cheese sauce.
No outbreaks of human illness from consumption of raw milk in California. August of 1984 approximately 200 persons became ill with a Salmonella typhimurium from CONSUMING PASTEURIZED MILK Illinois, June 1993, 41 people ill, 25 hospitalized from Salmonella in food served at a Mexican restaurant.
November of 1984, another outbreak of Salmonella typhimurium illness from CONSUMING PASTEURIZED MILK Oregon, March 1993, 48 people ill from E. coli 0157:H7 in mayonnaise served at Sizzler restaurant.
No outbreaks of human illness from consumption of raw milk in California. 1983, over 49 persons with Listeria illness have been associated with the consumption of PASTEURIZED MILK in Massachusetts. An additional 50 cases of illness caused by E. coli 0157:H7 bacteria in food served in Sizzler’s restaurants in Oregon and Washington were reported to CDC in 1993.
1993, 28 persons ill from Salmonella infection The western US, December 1992 to January 1993, 700 people ill from E. coli 0157:H7 in hamburgers served at Jack-in-the-Box restaurants in Washington, Idaho, Nevada and California. Nearly 100 of the victims developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a serious complication resulting from E. coli 0157:H7 infection, and four children died.
No outbreaks of human illness from consumption of raw milk in California 1982, 172 persons ill (100 hospitalized) from a three Southern state area from PASTEURIZED MILK.

Update:

A recent blog posting has challenged our statement that there have been no outbreaks attributable to raw milk in california during the period 1982 – 1996. See:http://www.ethicurean.com/2009/07/20/raw-milk-2/.

The blog provides the following as an example of alleged “outbreaks” from raw milk: http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?tool=pubmed&pubmedid=3140275. Below is analysis of this report showing that this article does not show conclusive evidence linking illness to raw milk, and in fact is typical of the highly biased attitudes in published reports alleging problems with raw milk.

As far as I know, we have analyzed every published report linking illness to raw milk in our Response to William Marler, posted here: http://realmilk.com/documents/ResponsetoMarlerListofStudies.pdf. If there are any reports that we have missed, please let us know and we will take a close look at them and post the analysis.

ANALYSIS OF Assessment of the excess risk of Salmonella dublin infection associated with the use of certified raw milk. Public Health Rep. 1988 Sep–Oct; 103(5): 489–493.

This report made the absurd assumption that the causal relationship between raw milk and illness could be determined using statistics. After ascertaining all cases of S. dublin diagnosed between 1980 and 1983 and then asking them over the course of 1984 to 1985 whether they had consumed certified raw milk (the only source of which was Alta Dena), the authors calculated the incidence of S. dublin among certified raw milk users and the incidence in the general population, and then calculated the “excess” occurring in raw milk users and concluded that this fraction was “acquired from the milk.”

In addition to recall bias, the authors noted that people who reported drinking raw milk at the time of illness may have been more likely to have been tested for S. dublin [thus creating a false association of raw milk with illness].

Most importantly, the authors offered no evidence that the milk drunk by these cases was contaminated with S. dublin or whether the strain matched that of the infecting organism. Correlation does not prove causation.

VERDICT: This report does not contain conclusive evidence linking illness to raw milk.
Edited: 04/19/2010
About the Author

[authorbio:fallon-morell-sally]

Sally Fallon Morell is the founding president of the Weston A. Price Foundation and founder of A Campaign for Real Milk. She is the author of the best-selling cookbook, Nourishing Traditions (with Mary G. Enig, PhD) and the Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care (with Thomas S. Cowan, MD). She is also the author of Nourishing Broth (with Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CCN).

5 Responses to Is Raw Milk Safe for Babies?

  1. Sharon Stosur says:

    I am very much into nutrition and have strongly held beliefs about how important nutrition is to our health and well-being. I had my introduction by reading books by Adelle Davis more than 40 years ago. I have since taken numerous courses in microbiology and have a Master of Science degree in laboratory science. I have read the information on this page and that of the CDC which reports numerous cases of illness between 1998 and 2011: http://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/rawmilk/raw-milk-questions-and-answers.html#who
    I was searching for the benefits of raw versus pasteurized and have come to the conclusion that what I am really hearing from the pro-raw-milk side is that pasteurized milk and milk products cause illnesses as well, and maybe somewhat more commonly. This would stand to reason since the vast majority of milk is pasteurized in our culture.
    If you look at the list of bacteria in the link above, it will probably mean very little to you, “These harmful bacteria include Brucella, Campylobacter, Listeria, Mycobacterium bovis, Salmonella, Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, Shigella, Streptococcus pyogenes, and Yersinia enterocolitica.”
    But to someone trained in microbiology, each of these is not something you want to take a chance with. Interestingly, the CDC states that about 82% of cases of illness related to raw milk are children (or individuals <20 years of age).
    Pasteurization reduces the number of viable pathogens in the milk and this assists with disease prevention because pathogens are often dose dependent. Now if people are still becoming ill from pasteurized milk than I would conclude that, 1. Milk should be heated at a higher temperature than it is, or 2. it should be heated for a longer period of time, or 3. it should be re-pasteurized at home prior to drinking it.
    Speaking of evidence I have yet to see any evidence of any benefit to our NOT killing off the pathogens by heating at a temperature, which is lower than boiling point for merely a quarter of a minute. Although doing so may have created a false sense of security, leading to some cases of illness, I believe pasteurization is and has been key in preventing disease.
    Campylobacter (just one of the pathogens listed above) has been implicated in relation to Ulcerative Colitis, a chronic, even life-long illness that may result in loss of the colon eventually.
    As someone who has taken numerous courses in microbiology, I conclude: If you want to give your children raw milk then it is your prerogative to do so, I would never. I will close with the words of a health conscious (and very practical) doctor I once knew: "Cows milk is for cows."

  2. Linda says:

    So powerful is the anti-microbial system in raw milk that when large quantities of pathogens are added to raw milk, their numbers diminish over time and eventually disappear. For a discussion of scientific papers showing the pathogen-killing properties of raw milk, see Does Raw Milk Kill Pathogens? by Dr. Ted Beals.

    Of course, this marvelous protective system can be overwhelmed by very dirty conditions. That is why we do not recommend raw milk from confinement dairies, or raw milk that is produced under unsanitary conditions. Raw milk producers have a responsibility to produce raw milk in the cleanest possible conditions. Cows should not be allowed to wallow in mud and muck; they should be well fed; and all equipment washed and stored properly. We strongly advise all raw milk producers to be members of the Raw Milk Institute (RAWMI) and to implement their guidelines for safe raw milk practices.

    My question to you is, if this is true why am I seeing so many reports from people not government officials saying that their children and/or themselves got very sick & almost died from consuming raw milk? As far as I’m concerned the risk outweigh the benefits. The few nutrients I may be losing I can get from other safer sources.

    True Life Stories
    http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2014/02/a-mom-and-a-dairymans-plea-dont-feed-children-raw-milk/

    Real Life Stories – The Dangers of Raw Milk – Real Raw Milk Facts
    http://www.realrawmilkfacts.com/real-life-stories

    Is Raw Milk Really Good for You – half way down page gives story of young boy sickened from raw milk
    http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2012/09/is-raw-milk-safe-e-coli

    Raw Milk: A Mother’s Story
    http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/04/is-the-foundation-of-good-health-found-in-a-bottle-of-raw-milk/

    SICK FROM RAW MILK
    http://www.jolynneshane.com/sick-from-raw-milk.html

    Raw Milk in the News
    http://www.realrawmilkfacts.com/raw-milk-news

    I read about an older form of pasteurizing called “vat pasteurization”. This method uses lower heat and longer, slower h

  3. Maureen says:

    While I appreciate the education and consideration of both Sharon and Linda, I believe both are overlooking or misunderstanding a couple of key points.

    First, as to the potential for contamination of unprocessed milk, there is always risk of contamination in every food we eat. Clean raw milk produced on responsible, pasture-based farms is at a significantly lower risk than that of many other foods for causing food borne illnesses, including lunch meats, lettuce, or even pasteurized dairy products, so do we just omit dairy from our diet as a whole, along with these other things? There is no food which is 100% risk-free.. Thus, the safety issue when comparing high quality milk intended to remain raw for consumption vs pasteurized milk, is a moot point in my opinion. Furthermore, with the protective factors present in raw milk, pathogens are destroyed within hours when said milk is collected, cooled, and stored in sanitary conditions.

    My second point is this: where are all of these illnesses? From my many years of watching the controversies surrounding raw milk and its consumption, I have witnessed many accusations of illness with very few substantiated. For example, where I lived for many years there is a very popular farm which delivers milk all across the state. The farm is immaculate, very conscientiously managed, and it produces wonderful milk. The owners installed a lab on-farm to monitor every single batch of milk, and they also send samples regularly to a state-approved lab. Several years ago there was an outbreak of campolybacter with hundreds in the surrounding communities becoming ill (it was a particularly warm, wet late winter, perfect conditions for such to occur, *without* having anything to do with milk!). The outbreak includied many who dran the farms milk, but many more who had nothing to do with it. It was widely publicized that the blame for the outbreak was due to raw milk coming from this farm. The same thing actually happened twice to the same farm with similar conditions. The state lab was said to detect the presence of the bacteria in the milk, while the independent & on-farm labs showed clean, healthy milk which was completely safe for consumption.

    I know of many such incidences, this is not an isolated occurrence. Several states have been particularly aggressive towards the raw dairy industry, including Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Maryland. Many “funny” things happen in those states.

    So I take all of this blame with a grain of salt. At the same time, I always tell people that they must know their farmer and their farm. If the animals are kept in muck, fed much grain (in particular, GMO and sprayed), and the conditions of the milking parlor and creamery are dirty, the milk will be too, and I will neither drink, nor recommend it to others.

    The bottom line is this: fresh, clean raw milk from a well-managed and pasture-based farm can be a phenomenal resource for nutrients and flavor. But raw milk from a conventional farm, or from a dirty one, is just not worth it!

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