Looking deeper into the CDC data on raw milk cheese safety vs pasteurized

From David E. Gumpert at the Complete Patient blog:

“If you’ll remember, the data I had from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control covered 33 years 1973-2005. For subsequent years, I turned to the CDC’s online database, which goes up through 2008, or another three years. (Another, more accessible resource laying out a table of illnesses that includes cheese, and goes through 2007, is available here.)

If one of the FDA’s apologists had taken up my offer, they would have been able to play a little bit of “gotcha,” because there were more illnesses from raw milk cheese during those three years than in the entire 33 years before. Interestingly, there were also a comparable number of illnesses from pasteurized cheese. 

So, in considering the entire 36-year period, 1973-2008, here is what I came up with:

* Remarkably, from 1973 to 1999,a period of 16 years, there’s not a single report of illness from either raw milk or pasteurized milk cheeses.

* It’s only in 2000 that we see the first illnesses from raw milk cheese–one outbreak that sickened 18, then two outbreaks in 2001 leading to 31 illnesses, and one outbreak sickening 18 in 2003.

* Thereafter, the pace of illnesses picks up, though in sporadic fashion. After no illnesses were reported in 2004 and 2005, the data in 2006 show 121 illnesses from raw milk cheese (from three outbreaks), and in 2007, the number increased to 159 (from four outbreaks). Then, there were no reported illnesses in 2008.

* Interestingly, illnesses from pasteurized milk cheese began showing up in recent years as well. In 2006, there were 41 illnesses from pasteurized milk cheese, and 161 in 2007. In 2008, there were 45 from pasteurized milk cheese.

Pulling it all together, the CDC data show 348 illnesses from raw milk cheese over the nine years from 2000-2009, or an average of 39 per year. (If you average the number out over the entire 36-year period, the average goes down to nine per year.) While there were fewer illnesses from pasteurized milk cheeses during that same nine-year period–247–there was one death….”

Read it all on The Complete Patient blog.

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