Raw Milk More Likely to Cause Outbreak, CDC Says

Staff Writer
And the debate continues

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

A new study from the CDC examining dairy-related illness outbreaks from 1993 to 2006 says that raw milk and raw milk products are 150 times more likely to cause outbreaks than pasteurized milk.

The survey found that out of 121 dairy-related outbreaks associated with pasteurized or raw milk, 60 percent were caused by raw milk.

The CDC also found that 200 of 239 hospitalizations were caused by raw milk outbreaks, and 75 percent of the outbreaks occurred in the 21 states where it was legal to sell raw milk products.

Naturally, raw milk advocates claim that the study is flawed and misportrays the actual scale of illnesses. The Weston A. Price Foundation claims that "The CDC has manipulated and cherry picked this data to make raw milk look dangerous," in a press release. Here's the breakdown, below.

The study: "This study shows that raw milk has great risks, especially for children, who experience more severe illnesses if they get sick," study co-author Barbara Mahon said in a CDC press release.

The Raw Milk Advocates Response: Weston A. Price claims that the CDC manipulated data by only covering 1993 to 2006, leaving out noteworthy pasteurized milk-related illness outbreaks during earlier or later years.

The foundation also claims that the CDC should count the number of illnesses caused by raw or pasteurized dairy, rather than outbreaks. "When you’re dealing with raw milk you tend to have smaller outbreaks than pasteurized milk," David Gumpert, author of The Raw Milk Revolution, told us.

Furthermore, raw milk advocates claim that in the grand scheme of things, foodborne illnesses from dairy are uncommon. "There was an average of 112 illnesses each year attributed to all raw dairy products, and 203 associated with pasteurized dairy products. In comparison, there are almost 24,000 foodborne illnesses reported each year on average," Sally Fallon Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation, said.

The CDC Response: CDC representatives told us that the study picked up from 1993 because previous analysis ended at 1992. Researchers chose 2006 as an end date because it was the most recent year of state law data available when they started.

"Our findings are consistent with the previous analysis (Headrick et al.), however we provide more detail in this study regarding the relationship between outbreaks and state laws governing the sale of raw milk products," lead author Adam Langer said. "We have continued to report raw milk outbreaks since 2006."

In case you missed the raw milk debate at Harvard last week, you can watch the full "he said, she said" exchange here.