Friday, February 3, 2012

Raw Milk Anyone?

 An outbreak of bacterial infections and the association with the raw, unpasteurized milk is our topic today.
Despite strong warnings from public health officials about the potential danger an outbreak of campylobacter illness is on the rise.
Raw milk from a dairy in Pennsylvania is now linked to 38 cases in four states, and the farm has temporarily suspended sales. 

Campylobacter can cause diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever and can be life-threatening if it spreads to the bloodstream.

It isn't easy to find unpasteurized milk, it's against federal law to transport it across state lines, and most states don’t allow it to be sold in stores off the farm. Twenty states prohibit raw milk sales altogether.

The government says the milk is unsafe because of the pathogens cows may contract on the farm. A wide variety of pathogens besides campylobacter, can be found in raw milk — including salmonella, listeria, E. coli and others — and those sickened could suffer from stroke, kidney failure, paralysis or death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency points out that raw milk killed many people — especially young children — before pasteurization, which kills disease-causing germs by heating milk to high temperatures for a specific period of time.

The CDC says pasteurized milk is rich in proteins, carbohydrates and other nutrients, and that heat only slightly decreases thiamine, vitamin B12, and vitamin C.

Advocates for raw milk claim that far more illnesses are caused each year by leafy greens, deli meats and other products than raw milk.

"To outlaw or ban any natural food because it could possibly make you sick is an extreme position, because there is no safe food," the advocates say.

"The intensity with which raw milk supporters believe in this product is almost unheard of, certainly for a food," said Sarah Klein, an attorney for the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "It’s like snake oil."
Klein says advocates often mislead consumers by describing bucolic settings and happy cows.

"These are still animals; they defecate inches from where the milk is produced," she said. "They stand in it, they swat their tails through it. That’s all very natural. It’s just a matter of course that raw milk is contaminated."

The owner of the Pennsylvania dairy, Your Family Cow farm in Chambersburg, put a message on the farm’s website last week saying that several customers had called them to say they had been experiencing "acute diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps."

But the owner said in the posting that the farm’s testing had shown samples to be negative for campylobacter and speculated that the illnesses may be from another cause.
But the Pennsylvania health department has connected the outbreak to the farm, and a spokeswoman for the Maryland’s health department says an unopened bottle from the farm tested positive for campylobacter.

Raw milk sales are illegal in Maryland, but there are four illnesses from the outbreak in that state. Those sickened most likely drove to Pennsylvania and brought the milk back.

One person is also sick in New Jersey and two in West Virginia, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Thirty one people are sick in Pennsylvania, many of them in Franklin County, where the farm is located.