Real Raw Milk Facts

SDSU Extension: Raw Milk and Home Pasteurization

Alvaro Garcia, South Dakota State University shares insights on milk safety in this iGrow publication. He notes that milk is rarely in the news as a food that causes public health concerns thanks to pasteurization technology. He also acknolwedges that many consumers have a desire to purchase milk directly from a dairy. He recommends that if they purchase raw milk, they take steps to reduce the likelihood of foodborne illness by pasteurizing the milk at home.

"The main reason for this has been the strict health control points from farm to table and the pasteurization of fluid milk and dairy products," Garcia said.

He adds that for almost a century producers and processors have understood that milk is a

a potential source for the growth of microorganisms and therefore, could cause health problems if not handled properly.

"Regulations and policies were created to protect the consumers' health from diseases that can be transmitted by drinking raw milk," Garcia said. "This fact has created a partnership of trust among producers, industry, and consumers."

Many generations have passed since milk was responsible for a great part of the foodborne illnesses in the population.

"In 1938 raw milk was responsible for 25 percent of all food borne outbreaks in the U.S.," he said. "After pasteurization - between 1973 and 1992 - the number of raw milk originated outbreaks was only 46 or 2.4 per year."

Garcia explains that the 1987 FDA ban of interstate raw milk sales probably helped accomplish this.

"The legality of selling raw milk was left to each state's government; by 1995, 28 states legalized it. Over the last 20 years, the consumption of raw milk products has increased. The risk of foodborne disease has increased - between 1993 and 2006 the outbreaks associated with raw milk more than doubled compared to those of the 1973-1992 period with 68 cases or 5.2 per year," he said.

Advocates promoting the consumption of raw milk have been extremely active in spite of an increase in the numbers of outbreaks. Those who drink raw milk say it is healthier because it hasn't lost enzymes and nutrients during pasteurization.

"Research has not been able to prove these claims," Garcia said. "In fact, recent research has proven that aside from 10 percent loss in vitamin C, the rest of the vitamins were not affected. In the same trial the main milk enzymes lactoferrin, lacto-peroxidase, and lysozyme maintained highly significant activity after pasteurization."

Research from the Centers for Disease Control shows the rate of outbreaks caused by raw milk and products made from it was 150 times greater than those linked to pasteurized milk. This past January, Kansas experienced its third raw milk-borne outbreak since 2007 with 18 people ill with Campylobacter infection.

In 2007, Kansas had two Campylobacter outbreaks one involved cheese made with raw milk that sickened 68; another one with milk from a dairy that infected 25. February of 2012 saw one of the largest raw milk-originated outbreaks of recent times.

This latest Campylobacter outbreak originated in Pennsylvania and affected individuals in four states: Pennsylvania with 70 illnesses, Maryland with five illnesses, West Virginia with three illnesses, and New Jersey with two illnesses. The 80 cases reported resulted in nine hospitalizations.

The milk came from a dairy called "Your Family Cow" and was sold by a store called the "Healthy Grocer."

"Both the names for the farm and the store had connotations of family and health and appealed to this new generation of consumers," Garcia said.

How prevalent is Campylobacter in dairy farms? Garcia points to a recent National Animal Health Monitoring System which showed that 92.6 percent of the dairies had Campylobacter-positive cows, with 33.7 percent of all cows in the survey infected. Only cows outwardly healthy at the time of collection were tested. Campylobacter is the most common intestinal pathogen in Minnesota, with a yearly median of 903 cases between 2001 and 2008.

Because many consumers have a desire to purchase milk directly from a dairy, Garcia recommends that if they purchase raw milk, they take steps to reduce the likelihood of foodborne illness by pasteurizing the milk at home.

"You can pasteurize milk at home by heating it briefly on the stove-top to 161 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 20 seconds, and cool quickly. And, in-home pasteurization machines can be purchased," said Joan Hegerfeld-Baker, SDSU Extension Food Safety Specialist.

Garcia adds that modern, best management practices applied in today's dairies greatly reduce the risk of milk-borne illnesses compared to the past.

"In addition, milk pasteurization further protects the end consumer from any microorganism that may have haphazardly reached the food chain. This combination of processes has resulted in dairy food products with well-deserved reputation for wholesomeness and safety," Garcia said. "Raw milk sales and its resulting outbreaks challenge this reputation and may in the long run undermine the confidence placed in one of the pillars of a highly nutritious diet."

Read the original article:

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