- A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 96% of all foodborne illness from dairy products comes from raw milk and cheese, Food Safety magazine reported.
- According to statistics in the study, unpasteurized products cause 840 times more illnesses and 45 times more hospitalizations than their pasteurized counterparts.
- Despite the sobering statistics, popularity of unpasteurized products continues to grow, with proponents pointing out their positive health benefits.
Even though food safety process and awareness have made great strides in recent years, so has the raw milk movement. Public health advocates have long cautioned against consuming any unpasteurized dairy products, with the FDA strongly condemning consuming products. Federal law prohibits raw milk products from crossing state lines, meaning each state can make its own laws on local sale and consumption of the products.
Raw milk aficionados say the products taste better, produce fewer allergic reactions and can cure illnesses — claims that are all anecdotal and unproven.
But as more people are interested in natural and local foods, somehow the popularity of raw milk continues to grow. According to the National Council of State Legislatures, all but 19 states allow raw milk sale or distribution in some form. Some states have required products to be labeled as unpasteurized, while others only allow sales on dairy farms.
It's not clear if anything can stop the popularity and growth of raw milk — short of states and localities outlawing it. While some continue to tout its benefits, there are stories everywhere about its negative consequences. This latest CDC study is a sobering look at the dangers of consumption, but it's not the only recent story that has made headlines. In March, two people died after eating artisenal raw milk cheese made in upstate New York that was contaminated by listeria. In total, six people were hospitalized after eating the cheese.
Last year, West Virginia passed a law allowing herd sharing, where several people can have part ownership of cows in order to have access to raw milk. Several lawmakers toasted the bill's passage with raw milk — and got sick soon after.