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Organic Consumers Association

CDC Cherry Picks Data to Make Case Against Raw Milk

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Health Issues page, Food Safety Research Center page, and our Raw Milk page.
WASHINGTON, DC,  In a press release issued yesterday, authors affiliated with the Centers for Disease Control claim that the rate of outbreaks caused by unpasteurized milk and products made from it was 150 times greater than outbreaks linked to pasteurized milk." The authors based this conclusion on an analysis of reports submitted to the CDC from 1993 to 2006.

According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, the CDC has manipulated and cherry picked this data to make raw milk look dangerous and to dismiss the same dangers associated with pasteurized milk.

"What consumers need to realize, first of all," said Sally Fallon Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation, "is that the incidence of foodborne illnesses from dairy products, whether pasteurized or not, is extremely low. For the 14-year period that the authors examined, there was an average of 315 illnesses a year from all dairy products for which the pasteurization status was known. Of those, there was an average of 112 illnesses each year attributed to all raw dairy products and 203 associated with pasteurized dairy products.

"In comparison, there are almost 24,000 foodborne illnesses reported each year on average. Whether pasteurized or not, dairy products are simply not a high risk product."

Because the incidence of illness from dairy products is so low, the authors' choice of the time period for the study affected the results significantly, yet their decision to stop the analysis with the year 2006 was not explained. The CDC's data shows that there were significant outbreaks of foodborne illness linked to pasteurized dairy products the very next year, in 2007: 135 people became ill from pasteurized cheese contaminated with e. coli, and three people died from pasteurized milk contaminated with listeria (wwwn.cdc.gov/foodborneoutbreaks/Default.aspx).

Outbreaks from pasteurized dairy were also a significant problem in the 1980s. In 1985, there were over 16,000 confirmed cases of Salmonella infection that were traced back to pasteurized milk from a single dairy. Surveys estimated that the actual number of people who became ill in that outbreak were over 168,000, "making this the largest outbreak of salmonellosis ever identified in the United States" at that time, according to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association.


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