According to a new policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), pregnant women and children should avoid consuming raw milk and raw milk products to avoid the risk of infection from harmful bacteria, viruses, and parasites that cause food-borne illnesses.
Recent estimates indicate that 48 million Americans experience food-borne illness each year, which accounts for 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths annually. Consuming raw milk and milk products can result in infections that cause sickness, diarrhea, and stomach cramping as well as kidney failure, paralysis, and even death.
Food-borne illnesses as a result of the consumption of raw or unpasteurized milk and milk products are highly preventable infections due to the ubiquitous access to pasteurized milk and milk products. Laws prohibiting the sale of raw dairy products in much of the United States also helps prevent infections from raw milk products.
Although most milk and milk products are pasteurized in the United States, an estimated one to three percent of all dairy products consumed are not pasteurized. Between 1998 and 2009, the consumption of raw milk and raw milk products resulted in 93 illness outbreaks, 1,837 illnesses, 195 hospitalizations, and two deaths in the United States.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), individuals with weakened immune systems, the elderly, pregnant women, infants, and young children are at an increased risk for infections from raw milk and milk products.
Despite the documented risks from raw dairy products, some individuals continue to consume unpasteurized milk and milk products, believing that raw dairy products provide great health benefits than pasteurized counterparts. No research currently supports the benefits of raw dairy products over pasteurized versions.
Yvonne Maldonado, professor of pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine in California, explains:
“We have no scientific evidence that consuming raw milk provides any advantages over pasteurized milk and milk products.
“But relative to the amount of raw milk products on the market, we do see a disproportionately large number of diseases and illnesses from raw milk.”
Therefore, individuals including pregnant women and children who are at an increased risk of infection from food-borne illnesses should avoid raw milk products.
The most recent policy on raw dairy products from the AAP supports the position of the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that certain groups at higher risk should completely avoid raw milk and raw milk products:
“In summary, the AAP strongly supports the position of the FDA and other national and international associations in endorsing the consumption of only pasteurized milk and milk products for pregnant women, infants, and children. The AAP also endorses a ban on the sale of raw or unpasteurized milk and milk products throughout the United States, including the sale of certain raw milk cheeses, such as fresh cheeses, soft cheeses, and soft-ripened cheeses.”
Prior to the advent of pasteurization, the consumption of raw dairy products accounted for a significant proportion of food-borne illnesses from harmful bacteria, viruses, and parasites such as Brucella abortus, streptococcal species, and enteric pathogens.
As Prof. Maldonado concludes, “We invented pasteurization to prevent these horrible diseases. There is really no good reason to drink unpasteurized milk.”
‘Avoid Raw Milk Products,’ Pediatricians Urge: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/270250.php
Consumption of Raw or Unpasteurized Milk and Milk Products by Pregnant Women and Children: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2013/12/10/peds.2013-3502.abstract
Glass of Milk: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/1309071