The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services issued a press regarding the sale and consumption of raw milk yesterday.  From the press release:

“After several meetings, it was clear that there is no process or agreement that would assure the safety of raw unpasteurized milk, and that our citizens could not be assured of the safety of the product,” said William Hacker, M.D., DPH commissioner and Health and Family Services’ acting undersecretary for health.

Interestingly, Johns Hopkins Medical Center listed avoiding raw milk products in a recent post on its Web site about preventing food poisoning.

The debate about whether the sale of raw milk should be legal or illegal has been brought up in nearly every state in recent years, with raw milk advocates claiming pasteurization kills important enzymes in milk.  Marler Clark advocates pasteurization of all dairy products to reduce the risk of infection with pathogenic bacteria such as E. coli and Campylobacter jejuni. 

The following are more facts from the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services press release:

Since 1908, pasteurization has been used to assure the health and safety of milk after numerous outbreaks of illness due to consumption of raw milk and raw milk products. Heat in the pasteurization process treats the raw milk to eliminate the organisms that could otherwise cause illness.

Raw milk has been implicated in illness outbreaks in several states. In December 2002, a raw milk dairy in Ohio sickened 62 people due to salmonella in the raw milk. An outbreak attributed to drinking raw milk in December 2005 in Washington state sickened 17 individuals because of E. coli in the raw milk, and in March 2005, raw milk cheese sold in New York was linked to dozens who became ill with tuberculosis in the raw milk. A 14-month-old child died as a result.

The most recent raw milk outbreaks were in California and Washington state in 2006 where six people became ill from drinking raw milk contaminated with E. coli.

Raw milk can carry and pass on a number of illnesses, including: campylobacteriosis, salmonellosis, hemolytic uremic syndrome from E. coli, listeriosis, tuberculosis, brucellosis, cryptosporidiosis, staphylococcal enterotoxin poisoning, q-fever and others that can cause severe disabling problems and even death. This is especially critical in the elderly, people who are immune-compromised and in children.

“There is no way to ensure whether the raw milk you consume contains these illness-causing agents,” said Hacker. “Raw milk, no matter how carefully it was produced, may be unsafe.”