By Georgina Gustin, CQ Roll Call
Consumption of raw milk has led to more outbreaks of illness, especially in states where its sale is legal, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The numbers could fire up the debate over raw milk, which both the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration warn against, but some consumers insist has curative properties.
In 2014, 23 states considered bills to legalize raw milk. In Congress last year, Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., introduced two bills that would prevent the FDA from enforcing bans on interstate sales.
The CDC study, released Thursday, found that 26 states reported 81 outbreaks traced to raw milk, leading to 979 illnesses and 73 hospitalizations. Most of the outbreaks were linked to campylobacter bacteria.
The study noted a rise in outbreaks from 30 between 2007 and 2009, to 51 between 2010 and 2012. More than 80 percent of the outbreaks were in the 26 states where sales are legal. The number of outbreaks has gone up from an average of 3.3 per year from 1993 to 2006, to 13.5 per year from 2007 to 2012.
Proponents of raw milk consumption maintain that pasteurization kills nutritive enzymes that can cure everything from asthma to autism. Advocacy groups, many with a libertarian bent, have called the government’s position on raw milk “pasteurization without representation.”
But federal and state health agencies warn against consuming raw milk because, without pasteurization, the milk can easily become contaminated by feces, dirt, insects, cow illnesses and bacteria living on an animal’s skin. “Milk cannot be collected without introducing some bacteria – even under ideal conditions of cleanliness,” the CDC says.