Raw or unpasteurised milk and milk products can hold the danger of bacterial infection to pregnant women, foetuses and young children.
Yvonne Maldonado, MD, professor of paediatrics at the Stanford University School of Medicine in the recently published article in the Pediatrics journal, stated that only pasteurised products should be consumed by the above parties according to the new policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Various other institutions have also supported this statement.
Pasteurised vs unpasteurised
Claims that unpasteurised or raw milk and milk products hold superior health benefits to pasteurised milk and milk products are not substantiated. In actual fact, it has been proven that pasteurised milk and its products hold the same benefits (in the form of proteins, carbohydrates, calcium, vitamins, enzymes). According to the article published in Pediatrics, “Claims that raw milk is not associated with lactose intolerance have not been substantiated by independent studies.”
Lead author of the article and infectious disease expert at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, Prof Maldonado, says “relative to the amount of raw-milk products on the market, we do see a disproportionately large number of diseases and illnesses from raw milk.”
The history of raw milk disease
In the 11 years leading up to 2009, 93 outbreaks were recorded that resulted from consuming raw milk or milk products. This caused 1 837 illnesses, 195 hospitalisations and two deaths. E.coli or species of Salmonella or Campylobacter were at the root of most of these infections, and can cause diarrhoea, fever, cramps, nausea and vomiting; and even become systemic. In the years prior to the development of pasteurisation, the drinking of raw milk was one of the major causes of childhood disease and even death. Contracting tuberculosis from milk was not uncommon in children.
What about modern-day cows’ milk?
“There have been recent studies demonstrating that even healthy dairy animals in good facilities carry some of these organisms on their udders, or the organisms are somewhere in their environment, and the milk can be contaminated with them … When these organisms are ingested, especially by young babies or pregnant women, they can cause severe illness,” says Prof Maldonado.
Taking extreme measures
The article suggested that the sale of raw milk and milk products be banned, as scientific evidence exists that E.coli 0157 can survive and live in raw milk and its products, which can cause severe symptoms and even liver failure. This pathogenic strain of E.coli can even survive the 60 days of ageing in cheese.
More organisms found in raw milk and raw milk products
More organisms were found in raw milk and its products, under which many species of bacteria, giardia, rabies and norovirus. The norovirus is seen as extremely dangerous as it is the most common cause of gastroenteritis in the US, with 19 to 21 million illnesses, 56 000 to 71 000 hospitalisations and 570 to 800 deaths annually, according to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We invented pasteurisation to prevent these horrible diseases … There is really no good reason to drink unpasteurised milk,” says Maldonado.