Regulators’ double standards — shut down orders for raw milk farmers versus less drastic measures for cases of pasteurized milk contamination?

David E. Gumpert highlighted this issue recently on The Complete Patient blog, where he documents case after case of pasteurized milk making large numbers of people sick, and yet the regulator response is nothing at all like what they unleash on the occasional raw milk farmer in whose milk pathogens are detected. We’ve seen this recently in Canada — though not with milk — but with the Maple Leaf meats issue. See our earlier post “A Tale of Two Recent Public Health Cases“. The cumulative picture looks very much like regulator bias or prejudice against raw milk. Whether this based on dogma, heresay, or some kind of hidden agenda, is not so easy to determine. Here’s an excerpt from David’s post on the subject:

We all know pasteurized milk is safe. Right?

We all know pasteurized milk is always safe. Right?

“It’s gotten so we aren’t surprised any more when the regulators go after producers of raw milk with a vengeance not seen with other foods. We’ve seen case after case after case, in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, and California, among other places.

Oftentimes the suspicions are highly questionable (like with findings of listeria in raw milk in New York), since no one becomes ill. Even when the evidence is more convincing, like in the current case in Wisconsin involving the Zinniker Family Farm, the authorities are very aggressive, most recently ordering the dairy shut down.

So how do the authorities handle outbreaks of illness from pasteurized milk? Their answer, at least in Massachusetts, is, “What outbreaks?”…”

“….The state contends, in a letter written by the director of the Food Protection Program of the Massachusetts Office of Health and Human Services, that raw milk is unsafe, and pasteurized milk is super safe. “As you are probably aware, each year, there are numerous reports of foodborne illness outbreaks in the United States associated with the consumption of raw milk. In contrast, only three outbreaks have been associated with pasteurized milk in the past 30 years.”

This is false information, however. I researched illnesses from pasteurized milk for my upcoming book (due out next month), The Raw Milk Revolution, and it turns out there have been a number of well-documented cases of serious and widespread illness from pasteurized milk.

For instance, in 1983, 14 of 49 Massachusetts residents who had contracted listeriosis from pasteurized milk died. The New England Journal of Medicine, in a 1985 writeup of the case, expressed open concern about the fallibilities of pasteurization: “The milk associated with disease came from a group of farms on which listeriosis in dairy cows was known to have occurred at the time of the outbreak,” said the article. “Multiple serotypes of L. monocytogenes were isolated from raw milk obtained from these farms after the outbreak. At the plant where the milk was processed, inspections revealed no evidence of improperpasteurization…These results support the hypothesis that human listeriosis can be a foodborne disease and raise questions about the ability of pasteurization to eradicate a large inoculum of L. monocytogenes from contaminated raw milk.”

And then there was a case two years later in Illinois, which, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, led to 16,000 confirmed illnesses of salmonella infection—of 2% milk from a single dairy.  In point of fact, the toll was likely ten times or more than the 16,000 confirmed cases, reported the JAMA authors. “Two surveys to determine the number of persons who were actually affected yielded estimates of 168,791 and 197,581 persons, making this the largest outbreak of salmonellosis ever identified in the United States,” the article summarized. Further investigation showed that the same strain of salmonella had contaminated the plant for at least ten months “and repeatedly contaminated milk after pasteurization.”…”

Read the whole post on The Complete Patient blog.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Regulators’ double standards — shut down orders for raw milk farmers versus less drastic measures for cases of pasteurized milk contamination?

  1. Pingback: Farmer Mark Zinniker to be part of Wisconsin raw milk working group « The Bovine

  2. Pingback: Lies, damned lies, and “Food Safety” | The Bovine

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