Raw milk can be harmful to health

Source of Article: http://www.theolympian.com/776/story/681525.html

Published December 01, 2008

Think twice before serving unpasteurized, or raw, milk to children.

Each year, there are many outbreaks of food poisoning around the country caused by it. Raw milk can contain certain dangerous bacteria such as salmonella, E. coli, listeria monocytogenes, and campylobacter. These infections can cause serious illnesses, especially in babies, young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those who cannot fight infection well.

The symptoms someone gets after drinking raw milk depend on which bacteria are in it. The more common problems are vomiting, diarrhea, belly pain, fever, headache and body aches. Most healthy people recover after drinking raw milk or eating cheese made with it; others may need to be hospitalized. Some people have died. A pregnant woman infected with Listeria can cause harm to the fetus.

Pasteurization is a process in which milk is heated to a high temperature to kill some types of bacteria. Pasteurization does not require putting any additives into the milk, and it plays an important part in making milk safe.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration have issued warnings against drinking raw milk.

There are parents who believe raw milk is more nutritious than pasteurized milk. Research has shown this is not true. There is no nutritional advantage to drinking raw rather than pasteurized milk. For parents who prefer that their children not be exposed to additives, there are pasteurized milk products from grass fed or organically raised cows that do not contain additives.

In Washington, it is legal for special state Department of Agriculture licensed dairies to sell unpasteurized milk for human consumption. Even with regulation, occasionally raw milk products have to be recalled because of contamination. For example, on Aug. 11, Agriculture warned about contaminated raw milk from Shaw Island.

All raw milk products sold must include a warning label that informs the consumer of the health risks associated with its consumption. It reads: "WARNING: This product has not been pasteurized and may contain harmful bacteria. Pregnant women, children, the elderly, and persons with lowered resistance to disease have the highest risk of harm from use of this product."

Some farmers have a "Cow Share" program similar to "Farm Share" programs for produce. The consumer purchases a "share" of a cow (or goat or sheep) and in return receives a portion of the milk produced. A cow share agreement is legal in Washington as long as the producer is properly licensed with Agriculture. More information about raw milk can be found at www.agr.wa.gov/foodanimal/dairy.

Dr. Diana Yu is the health officer for the Thurston County Public Health and Social Services Department, 412 Lilly Road N.E., Olympia, 98506. For information from the Health Department, call 360-786-5581.




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