FOODBORNE PATHOGENS AND DISEASE Volume 6, Number 7, 2009
Review by Stephen P. Oliver, Kathryn J. Boor, Steven C. Murphy, and Shelton E. Murinda
An increasing number of people are consuming raw unpasteurized milk. Enhanced nutritional qualities, taste, and health benefits have all been advocated as reasons for increased interest in raw milk consumption. However, science-based data to substantiate these claims are limited. People continue to consume raw milk even though numerous epidemiological studies have shown clearly that raw milk can be contaminated by a variety of pathogens, some of which are associated with human illness and disease. Several documented milk borne disease outbreaks occurred from 2000–2008 and were traced back to consumption of raw unpasteurized milk. Numerous people were found to have infections, some were hospitalized, and a few died. In the majority of these outbreaks, the organism associated with the milk borne outbreak was isolated from the implicated product(s) or from subsequent products made at the suspected dairy or source. In contrast, fewer milk borne disease outbreaks were associated with consumption of pasteurized milk during this same time period. Twenty-nine states allow the sale of raw milk by some means. Direct purchase, cow-share or leasing programs, and the sale of raw milk as pet food have been used as means for consumers to obtain raw milk. Where raw milk is offered for sale, strategies to reduce risks associated with raw milk and products made from raw milk are needed. Developing uniform regulations including microbial standards for raw milk to be sold for human consumption, labeling of raw milk, improving sanitation during milking, and enhancing and targeting educational efforts are potential approaches to this issue. Development of pre-harvest and post-harvest control measures to effectively reduce contamination is critical to the control of pathogens in raw milk. One sure way to prevent raw milk–associated food borne illness is for consumers to refrain from drinking raw milk and from consuming dairy products manufactured using raw milk.
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