Reported Outbreaks of Foodborne Illness vs. No Foodborne Illness for Raw Milk

Safety-ReportedOutbreaks-600x626The table below was drawn up for a Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors vote on permitting raw milk in the County.

It is also available as a PDF.

No outbreaks of human illness from consumption of raw milk in California. 1997, 28 persons ill from Salmonella in California, ALL FROM PASTEURIZED MILK. Massachusetts, June 1996, 38 persons ill and possibly contributing to one death from food contaminated with Salmonella served in a Wendy’s restaurant.
1996, 46 persons ill from Campylobacter and Salmonella in California. Idaho, September 1995, 11 people ill due to E. coli 0157:H7 traced to food eaten in a Chili’s restaurant in Boise.
No outbreaks of human illness from consumption of raw milk in California. 1994, 105 persons ill from E. coli and Listeria in California Florida, August 1995, 850 people ill from Salmonella newport bacteria in chicken served at Margarita y Amigos restaurant in West Palm Beach.
March of 1985 19,660 confirmed cases of Salmonella typhimurium illness FROM CONSUMING PROPERLY PASTEURIZED MILK. Over 200,000 people ill from Salmonella typhimurium in PASTEURIZED MILK Utah, January 1995, 96 people ill from hepatitis A traced to an employee of a Taco Bell restaurant in Salt Lake City
No outbreaks of human illness from consumption of raw milk in California. 1985, 142 cases and 47 deaths traced to PASTEURIZED Mexican-style cheese contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Washington, DC, August 1994, 56 people ill and 20 hospitalized from Salmonella in Hollandaise sauce.
1985, 1500 persons ill from Salmonella infection Georgia, October 1993, one dead, 7 others ill from botulism in canned cheese sauce.
No outbreaks of human illness from consumption of raw milk in California. August of 1984 approximately 200 persons became ill with a Salmonella typhimurium from CONSUMING PASTEURIZED MILK Illinois, June 1993, 41 people ill, 25 hospitalized from Salmonella in food served at a Mexican restaurant.
November of 1984, another outbreak of Salmonella typhimurium illness from CONSUMING PASTEURIZED MILK Oregon, March 1993, 48 people ill from E. coli 0157:H7 in mayonnaise served at Sizzler restaurant.
No outbreaks of human illness from consumption of raw milk in California. 1983, over 49 persons with Listeria illness have been associated with the consumption of PASTEURIZED MILK in Massachusetts. An additional 50 cases of illness caused by E. coli 0157:H7 bacteria in food served in Sizzler’s restaurants in Oregon and Washington were reported to CDC in 1993.
1993, 28 persons ill from Salmonella infection The western US, December 1992 to January 1993, 700 people ill from E. coli 0157:H7 in hamburgers served at Jack-in-the-Box restaurants in Washington, Idaho, Nevada and California. Nearly 100 of the victims developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a serious complication resulting from E. coli 0157:H7 infection, and four children died.
No outbreaks of human illness from consumption of raw milk in California 1982, 172 persons ill (100 hospitalized) from a three Southern state area from PASTEURIZED MILK.
1982, over 17,000 persons became ill with Yersinia enterocolitica from PASTEURIZED MILK bottled in Memphis, Tennessee.


This article appeared in the Fall 2001 edition of Wise Traditions, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation. 

13 thoughts on “Reported Outbreaks of Foodborne Illness vs. No Foodborne Illness for Raw Milk

  1. This probably isn’t too much help, but my grandfather used to milk a cow for decades and drank the raw milk everyday and and far as i know never got ill from it. My mother wanted the cow tested for TB at one stage and it was found to be free of it. This was in Nelson, NZ. I have just started drinking raw milk myself at age 67.

  2. As a kid my cousins and I worked on a dairy farm. After the morning milking the farmer would give us a big glass of milk right out of the holding tank. Never had anyproblems, never got sick. just thought I would bring this up.

  3. What about 2006 :
    In 2006, the California Department of Food and Agriculture temporarily quarantined milk and cream from Organic Pastures, California’s largest raw milk producer, after four children were stricken with E. coli O157:H7 bacterial illness. The department determined that the common link in all four cases “was consumption of raw milk or raw colostrum from Organic Pastures in the week prior to symptom onset.”[25]

    • In the incident you mention, two children were hospitalized, and two children went to the doctor but recovered without care within two days. For the two children that were hospitalized, their fecal samples did not have pathogens matching each other. One did not test positive for e-coli at all. The Organic Pastures Dairy Company (OPDC) recall overlapped the big spinach recall that year (that caused three deaths and sickened hundreds). Both hospitalized children consumed spinach during that time period, although the spinach pathogens were supposedly different than those found in the children. During the state’s investigation, no pathogens were found in Organic Pastures Dairy Company (OPDC) products or on their farm (the state took many samples to test including manure). At the time 50,000 people were consuming OPDC weekly. Why were hundreds not sickened, as with the spinach, if the source were OPDC products? Ultimately the state settled with OPDC and paid costs of the recalled product. No causation could be established.

    • From Sally Fallon Morell: “The deaths were from raw milk cheese, not fluid milk. And the study conveniently ends in 2006. There were three deaths from pasteurized milk in 2007.” See our Key Documents section for our response to a variety of papers and studies proclaiming the dangers of unpasteurized dairy products vs. pasteurized dairy products. The risk of foodborne illness from dairy, whether pasteurized or not, is very low. Per CDC data, produce causes the most illnesses by far, but there is no government push to pasteurize all produce.

      • What is your response to this paragraph from the above link to the CDC study? My husband and I are in a debate about raw milk and giving it to our children. I continue to drink it but he refuses and won’t allow giving it to our kids. So we are in a battle of statistics and facts (which are had to come by and be easily understood)…..
        Proportionately more persons were hospitalized
        during outbreaks caused by nonpasteurized (13%) than by pasteurized dairy products (1%). This observation suggests that infections associated with nonpasteurized dairy products might be more severe, and it is consistent with the more frequent identifi cation of bacterial, rather than viral or toxic, causative agents and with the larger proportion of illnesses affecting children…

        • Here is a response from Ted Beals: Concerning the higher number and resulting % of hospitalizations with raw milk. Looking at the Table on page 387 you can see that the data is impacted by the “2,098” illnesses for fluid pasteurized milk. And a remarkably low number of hospitalizations with that 2,098 illness. This is the result of the fact that there was one significant outbreak of pasteurized milk in a prison system and there was an obvious incentive to not hospitalize prisoners. I am unaware of any data that raw milk drinkers who had an illness that was attributed to drinking raw milk would be more likely to be hospitalized. Or that becoming ill from drinking pasteurized milk resulted in less severe illness. You make the point about not including the deaths that occurred in the following year resulting from drinking pasteurized milk. The observation that their data suggests that there are more children ill when the outbreak is attributed to raw milk is again a reflection of that large prison outbreak which obviously did not include children.

  4. It seems no one wants to give an objective view on the subject. I can not find any source that directly compares outbreaks involving pasteurized vs. raw milk. I am honestly trying to make up my mind but can not find an objective resource. If there is nothing to hide why not show all of the statistics and evidence to prove so?

    I am personally concerned about the foodborne illness risk but if the statistics are the same or higher for pasteurized then I don’t see there being a problem.

    “….raw milk can become contaminated in a number of ways: by coming into contact with cow feces or bacteria living on the skin of cows, from an infection of the cow’s udder, or from dirty equipment, among others.[22] According to the Government of New Zealand, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says improperly handled raw milk is responsible for nearly three times more hospitalizations than any other foodborne disease outbreak, making it one of the world’s most dangerous food products….”

  5. Also, the fact that this chart included information about people getting sick all across the US from pasteurized milk and other foods, but ONLY California for raw milk… I dunno… it just makes it seem too biased to trust. Which is disappointing. I’d rather have had some bad news about raw milk that was realistic enough to weigh the risks. :/

    • Cyndi, this particular chart was drawn up specifically for a vote in LA County about allowing raw milk there. Most other states at one point adopted the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance and outlawed or highly restricted raw milk. California did not (although some localities like LA had restricted it). So CA has decades of continuous data on raw milk that other states would not have. There are other articles on this site that use nationwide data from the CDC to show the relative risk of raw vs. pasteurized milk and raw or pasteurized milk compared to other foods. See under Key Documents.

  6. I gotta say, the only thing is, it’s hard to believe that no one has ever gotten sick off of raw milk with a label ever in California, which is the way this chart represents the information.
    I wish it showed some type of information regarding recalls or something, and what happened from there. :/

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