Sunday, March 18, 2007

Yet more on unpasteurized milk

This post was updated on 30th April, 2007.

In the previous post I mentioned the potential for contraction or spread of disease that could result from the consumption of raw milk or products made from unpasteurized milk. In that case the consumers may have contracted salmonellosis from the milk.

This week the Grey Bruce Health Unit in Ontario, Canada, issued a press statement, warning pregnant women to avoid consumption of raw milk and unpasteurized dairy products. The warning was issued to help prevent listeriosis infection in newborn babies. The original release can be found at:
http://www.publichealthgreybruce.on.ca/HOME/NewsEvents/2007/Mar/2006Mar14_Infant-Listeriosis.htm

Non-pregnant humans are highly resistant to the infection, though if they do become infected, the symptoms can be very serious, including meningitis and sepsis (invasion of the blood or tissues by bacteria or their toxins). Pregnant women may contract Listeriosis, but show no serious symptoms beyond mild influenza-like signs. Their foetus, however, may be infected, resulting in abortion or stillbirth. If the infant is infected during delivery, symptoms of meningitis begin 1 to 4 weeks later.

The Grey Bruce Health Unit news release stated that it had received a laboratory-confirmed report of an infant who contracted the disease. The most likely source of infection was said to be the mother’s consumption of raw milk cheese.

The release went on to say that pregnant women are at a 17 times higher risk than the general population of contracting the disease.

My personal and professional opinion is that any perceived benefits of drinking raw milk are far outweighed by the risks, both to the individual and to others in the same household. This is supported by scientific evidence: In the last decade the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has documented more than a thousand cases of food-borne illness and two deaths, all caused by unpasteurized dairy products. I have advised my pregnant daughter-in-law to avoid raw milk and raw milk products.

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