Avoid raw milk due to infection risks: pediatricians

NEW YORK Mon Dec 16, 2013 12:27am EST

An employee pours milk as cows are milked in the background at the Antsiferovskoye Farm in the village of Antsiferovo, some 415 km (258 miles) north of Russia's Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, July 24, 2013. REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin

An employee pours milk as cows are milked in the background at the Antsiferovskoye Farm in the village of Antsiferovo, some 415 km (258 miles) north of Russia's Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, July 24, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Ilya Naymushin

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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Pregnant women, babies and kids should not drink raw or unpasteurized milk, a group of pediatricians said on Monday.

Because of infection risks, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Committee on Infectious Diseases and Committee on Nutrition also said sales of unpasteurized milk, cheese and related products should be banned in the U.S.

Pasteurizing kills bacteria that can be present in raw milk. It involves heating the milk to at least 161 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 15 seconds and then rapidly cooling it.

"It's kind of like riding in a car with seatbelts," Kathryn Boor said. "If you've got the opportunity for a safety barrier, which would be pasteurization, why wouldn't you use it?"

Boor studies food safety at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where she is also the dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She was not involved in the new report.

At least 97 percent of dairy products consumed in the U.S. are pasteurized, the committees wrote in Pediatrics, the journal of the AAP.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration prohibits shipping raw milk for human consumption across state lines, but its sale is still legal in many states. Raw milk can carry bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella from sick animals or contact with manure, for instance.

Still, some groups promote raw milk based on studies suggesting it is tied to a lower risk of allergies and asthma.

Boor said those studies looked at children who also spend a lot of time outside and working on farms - kids who are probably different in many ways from those who drink pasteurized milk and live in the suburbs.

"While those studies are really tempting to link (raw milk and fewer allergies), I think that the picture is considerably more complicated than that," she told Reuters Health.

Claims that raw milk has nutrients that are killed by pasteurization also haven't been supported, researchers said.

When it comes to raw milk, Boor said, "We can quantify the risks. We cannot quantify the benefits. And the benefits at this point are vague and not really substantiated scientifically."

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 148 disease outbreaks tied to raw milk or raw milk products were reported in 1998 through 2011. Those caused 284 hospitalizations and two deaths.

"Contamination during milking or storage or milking from cows that may be diseased, exposes the consumer to severe and life-threatening illnesses such as miscarriage and still births in pregnant women, meningitis and blood infections in both young infants and pregnant women," Dr. Jatinder Bhatia told Reuters Health in an email.

Bhatia, from Children's Hospital of Georgia in Augusta, is one of the lead authors of the AAP statement.

In addition to babies and pregnant women, raw milk poses a health risk for people with compromised immune systems and the elderly, he said.

"The evidence overwhelmingly establishes the benefits of pasteurization on safety without proven adverse effects of pasteurization," Bhatia said.

The International Dairy Foods Association, a trade group, says on its website that "All milk intended for direct consumption should be pasteurized - it's a matter of food safety."

Boor grew up on a dairy farm and was raised on raw milk.

She said she favors giving people a choice when it comes to the type of milk they drink. But most people may not understand the risks of raw milk or accurately envision what goes on at a farm. Cows can be sick for a while before it's noticeable, Boor said, or the milking machine can drop off the cow and fall on the ground and get contaminated.

"Pasteurization is a very simple step, and that's all that it takes to put up that barrier, to prevent that problem," she said.

SOURCE: bit.ly/1kCYrQ1 Pediatrics, online December 16, 2013.

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Comments (10)
pbsmith12 wrote:
The majority of doctors know absolutely NOTHING about nutrition and are not scientifically qualified to make recommendations about the banning of natural foods that humans have been consuming for thousands of years without harm. This move is completely without justification. What is the cause? Where are the so-called cases of “illness” caused by drinking raw milk to back up their specious claims? HINT: There are NONE.

There has not been a single documented case of illness that can be traced back to the consumption of raw milk in the USA for more than 100 years. There have been a handful of made up cases that disintegrate into dust when you try to follow them back to their source, but nothing verifiable. So let’s follow the money. Sales of raw milk straight from the farmer to the consumer have been increasing in recent years, which has scared big dairy. So I wonder if the National Dairy Council or some other similar organization that supports huge factory dairies like Borden but is rabidly opposed to small independent dairies, didn’t just make a nice contribution to the American Academy of Pediatrics. By way of a thank you, the Academy in turn comes out with this horse pocky report, which sadly, many people will take as gospel truth. However did the human race survive eating all those natural foods in the thousands of years before we had the USDA and the American Academy of Pediatrics to protect us from being too healthy?

Health reporting is ridiculous in this country. They report biased, flawed clinical trials as fact, and completely overlook any information that didn’t come in via a PR wonk. And just in case you’re wondering, I am not a dairy farmer. I am a long-time, award-winning medical reporter who is simply sick of seeing this kind of stuff published without questioning its merits. A real journalist writing on this subject would have at least interviewed an expert on raw milk to get their side of the story. But then again, this isn’t real journalism, is it? It’s just publishing yet another press release without stopping to consider whether what is being published is accurate or even scientifically valid.

Nothing in this story is accurate or supported by actual science. It’s all flawed opinion put forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics for God only knows what reason. But ladies and gentlemen, let me here remind you of your oath: “First, do no harm.” When you put out claptrap like this, you are harming people by scaring them into avoiding the wholesome, unadulterated foods that made our ancestors strong. Please cut it out, and devote yourselves instead to your actual area of expertise, giving proper medical care to children.

Dec 16, 2013 1:05am EST  --  Report as abuse
RedwoodLady55 wrote:
We raised two children on raw milk. Raw milk products were delivered to our door twice a week for many years. Milk, butter, cheese, cottage cheese. No illness or sickness from any of these nutritious products. They are safe!

Dec 16, 2013 1:16am EST  --  Report as abuse
halloween wrote:
What a load of crap. I have drank raw milk most of my life, it is better for you than the crap they sell now. This is just another scare that the government put’s out so you will only buy from the “plastic” milk big companies. It is just like eggs, if you buy cage free and they only eat what is Natural and no chemicals, no medicine in food then you have a great tasting egg. People need to wake up to what the government say’s you can eat.

Dec 16, 2013 1:17am EST  --  Report as abuse
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