Raw milk is milk that is not pasteurized, the process of heating milk to slow microbial growth. In Kansas, it is illegal to sell raw milk in a retail setting, but raw milk can be sold on farms directly to consumers. Today, the Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA) issued a press release recommending that people not drink raw milk because of the risk. KDA pointed to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that showed, when weighted for consumption, the rate of outbreaks caused by raw milk and products made from it may be 150 times greater than outbreaks linked to pasteurized milk. The CDC study reviewed dairy product outbreaks from 1993 to 2006 in all 50 states. Outbreaks of diseases linked to raw milk products were more frequent and more severe in people younger than age 20. The rate of hospitalizations was 13 times higher in outbreaks associated with unpasteurized products compared to those associated with products that were pasteurized.
“Consuming raw milk is an unnecessary risk,” said Kansas Department of Agriculture Dairy Inspection Program Manager George Blush. “You cannot tell if milk is safe by just looking at, smelling or tasting it. Even milk from the cleanest dairies can pose risk without the pasteurization safeguard.”
Since 2007, there have been three outbreaks of disease associated with consumption of raw milk in Kansas:
- In October 2007, 68 people became ill due to consuming cheese made from raw milk at a Kansas community celebration. Laboratory tests confirmed the cause of this outbreak to be campylobacteriosis, an intestinal infection caused by Campylobacter jejuni bacteria.
- In a separate outbreak in 2007, unpasteurized milk purchased from a single dairy was also implicated as the source of illness for 25 persons due to campylobacteriosis.
- In January 2012, 18 people became ill in an outbreak of campylobacteriosis associated with consumption of raw milk from a dairy in south central Kansas.
Campylobacteriosis can cause Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), which can cause nervous system damage and possibly paralysis. Other pathogens can also contaminate raw milk and cause illness: E. coli, Listeria and Salmonella.
Food safety attorney Fred Pritzker represents people sickened by raw milk throughout the United States. He is available for a free consultation.