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In Louisiana, we are known for great food.  And it is no secret that we sometimes eat things that are not common in other parts of the world.  Crawfish, of course, come to mind.  But despite our adventurous palate as a state, we still have to be careful.  Foodborne pathogens like  Escherichia coli O157, Campylobacter jejuni, andSalmonella are incredibly serious, sometimes deadly.  These pathogens often inflict the greatest damage to the most vulnerable — kids, the elderly, or those with compromised immune systems.  Our Louisiana public officials — elected and regulatory — should take appropriate steps to protect against outbreaks of foodborne pathogens.  That is why a bill making its way through the legislative process merits attention.  

The Louisiana House of Representatives recently passed a bill allowing the private sale of raw milk in limited circumstances. Raw milk is milk from cows, sheep, or goats that has not been pasteurized to kill harmful microorganisms.  As a result, it can carry harmful pathogens that “cooking” or heating the milk is intended to reduce or eliminate.

My friend and colleague, Food Safety Lawyer Bill Marler, wrote about the House committee hearing for this bill.  He followed that up with an article about a letter to state health officials by Robert V. Tauxe, who is an MD and MPH and a bigwig at Centers for Disease Control in DC.  In that letter, Dr. Tauxe outlined the historic issues with raw milk and the value of pasteurization.  Dr. Tauxe states that, “Raw milk was recognized as a source of severe infections over 100 years ago, and pasteurization of milk to prevent these infections is one of the public health triumphs of the 20th century.”  He concluded his letter to state health officials by saying, “To protect the health of the public, state regulators should continue to support pasteurization and consider further restricting or prohibiting the sale and distribution of raw milk and other unpasteurized dairy products in their states.”  Sounds like maybe Dr. Tauxe is someone our state legislators may want to listen to on this subject.

I know, I know.  I can hear the complaints about Dr. Tauxe now — “I don’t know where this doctor is from, but here in the Great State of Louisiana, we eat crawfish!  And raw oysters!  And boudin!   And we wash it all down with hurricanes.  We don’t need some federal bureaucrat with a bunch of letters behind his name telling us what to eat and drink!”  Well, let’s forget about the federal bureaucrat for a moment.  And for the record, I am with the folks who are betting Dr. Tauxe doesn’t even know what boudin is.  (Plus, it’s hard not to notice that the “e” is in the wrong place in his last name.  If he were Dr. Teaux — instead of Dr. Tauxe — our trust factor in Louisiana would increase exponentially.  But for now, we will write the good doctor off.)

The problem with that kind of jingoism, however, is that our own health officials have gone on record that raw milk is a bad idea.  In a straightforward Q&A, Louisiana’s Office of Public Health has stated that “Raw milk can carry harmful bacteria and other germs that can make you very sick or kill you. While it is possible to get foodborne illnesses from many different foods, raw milk is one of the riskiest of all.”  OPH also states that “Raw milk can cause serious infections. Raw milk and raw milk products (such as cheeses and yogurts made with raw milk) can be contaminated with bacteria that can cause serious illness, hospitalization, or death. (My emphasis.)

So it’s not just that pointy-headed federal bureaucrat warning about the dangers of raw milk.  It is also our very own Louisiana Office of Public Health.  And OPH’s position is rather uncontroversial.  In fact, the Academy of Pediatrics issued a similar policy position earlier this year in which it stated that “Raw milk and milk products from cows, goats, and sheep continue to be a source of bacterial infections attributable to a number of virulent pathogens, including Listeria monocytogenes, Campylobacter jejuni, Salmonella species, Brucella species, and Escherichia coli O157.”  

The pediatricians recognized that some swear to the health benefits of raw milk.  But the baby doctors stated that the “benefits of these natural factors [the natural or unprocessed factors not inactivated by pasteurization] have not been clearly demonstrated in evidence-based studies and, therefore, do not outweigh the risks of raw milk consumption. Substantial data suggest that pasteurized milk confers equivalent health benefits compared with raw milk, without the additional risk of bacterial infections.”  (My emphasis.)  Maybe Dr. Tauxe is on to something.

And finally, there are real victims of raw milk contaminated with foodborne pathogens.  Bill’s firm has an informative website, Real Raw Milk Facts.  That website outlines many of the hot topics but, just as importantly, profiles victims who offer their insights on the dangers and benefits of raw milk.  it is worth a look for anyone interested in this issue.

I guess adults should generally be free to eat and drink whatever they want.  But it’s not a “nanny state” or “Big Brother” when elected and regulatory officials make policy decisions impacting public health — particularly when the victims are society’s most vulnerable.  Indeed, I guess that’s why we don’t see a bunch of un-immunized kids riding around on the back of motorcycles,without helmets, smoking unfiltered cigarettes and drinking out of open containers on their way to cockfights.  Our state legislators make these kinds of policy decisions all of the time — and rightly so.  Let’s hope that they will ultimately make the right one here.




  1. Gravatar for rawmilkmike

    1. Raw Milk Consumption among Patients with Non–Outbreak-related Enteric Infections, Minnesota, USA, 2001–2010 by Trisha J. Robinson, Joni M. Scheftel, and Kirk E. Smith

    An estimated 17.3% of raw milk consumers in Minnesota may have acquired an illness caused by 1 of these enteric pathogens during the 10-year study period. (That's 1.7% per year.) or (1 in 59)

    2. About 48 million people (That's 15% per year or 1 in 6 Americans) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die each year from foodborne diseases, according to new estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Does raw milk actually have a negative risk factor?

    Are people who don't drink raw milk 9 times more likely to contract a so called foodborne illness?

    Does raw milk prevent 1.3 million cases of foodborne disease and 90 deaths every year in the US?

  2. Mike -- I am a History and Political Science major so I am not following your math. But I do know Minnesota is in the United States (thanks to those aforementioned History and Poli Sci classes) and suspect that the CDC's numbers include the 17.3 percent of raw milk drinkers in Minnesota who get sick from drinking contaminated raw milk. The takeaway of the Minnesota study, to me, was that more than 17% of the Minnesota residents who drank raw milk got sick.

  3. Gravatar for Roger Bird

    My son's allergies have been healed every time that we have restarted raw milk. You naysayers fail to understand that health can be restored by getting off of processed foods.

  4. Gravatar for Mary McGonigle-Martin
    Mary McGonigle-Martin

    Roger Bird, what if after your son had a positive response with his allergies, one week you purchased a bottle of raw milk that was contaminated with E.coli 0157:H7. As a result he develop HUS and he experiences kidney failure, is placed on a dialysis machine, his colon is damaged and a portion has to be removed and he develops congestive heart failure and is placed on a ventilator. Along with all of this he has seizures. Is this all worth being allergy free?

  5. Gravatar for Roger Bird

    Mary McGonigle-Martin, you are asking me to trust the CDC and the FDA, and given their track record, that just isn't going to happen. It would be more likely that I would charge them with crimes against humanity and want them all locked up. And that is an honest and fair appraisal of their behavior from what I have seen and read. If you think that that is ridiculous, then I guarantee that you would feel the same way if you experienced what I have experienced with regard to the FDA and the CDC.

    I am well aware that raw milk needs to be handled with extreme care. But I don't trust their numbers and I don't trust them.

    We could start by them drawing guns on an Amish farmer and Santa Monica greenies over raw milk recently. But that is just with regarding raw milk. They are making WAR against alternative healing and natural foods and have been doing so for the past 101 years. They are the sword of Big Pharma, the Processed Foods Industry, and Big Dairy.

  6. Gravatar for Roger Bird

    Mary McGonigle-Martin, I did answer your question. I don't trust your assumptions, I don't trust your statistics, I don't trust your numbers. It is as though I had asked you if you rather stay indoors or go outside and get hit by meteorites. Your question is a bogus question.

    Would you rather dodge the VERY occasional infectious disease and die of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or some other chronic degenerative disease, or would you rather risk the VERY occasional infectious disease and guarantee that you won't die of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or some other chronic degenerative disease.

    Given that 95% of all Americans die from chronic degenerative diseases, I would rather avoid chronic degenerative diseases and risk the occasional infectious disease.

    We as a people have the worst stats for longevity and infant mortality in the industrialized world, something like 37th for both. We spend 1/2 as much on food as any other nation. And we spend 2 to 3 times more for health care. This should be a clue for any wise person. Foolish people won't get it.

  7. NEWS FROM MICHIGAN: A 6-year-old from Kent County and 31-year-old Muskegon County woman were diagnosed with E. coli 0157:H7 infection after consuming raw-milk products from a cow-share program in March and April, 2014.


    1. Roger - It appears from media reports that the county officials conducted an epidemiological survey to link the E. coli O157:H7 to consumption of the raw milk and between the victims. I don't know if they had a PFGE match.

  8. Gravatar for antony

    In a local store there are five choices of blue cheese. Only one is pasteurised. The only way to distinguish this from the raw cheese is by reading the contents in very small print. If those who think "raw" is so brilliant then why do they not have the integrity to put "Raw Blue Cheese" on the label in large letters so it is easier to see - and in my case avoid buying. the product.

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