Saturday, March 17, 2012

Do you know the names of the pathogens that end up in raw milk products?

"Raw milk does have a checkered history of safety issues," acknowledged McAfee, alluding to the high incidence of milk-borne illnesses before the 1900s. But with modern sanitation, he believes "we know now how to produce very safe, very clean raw milk."
"We just don't know how it happened," said McAfee, who has since added new cleaning protocols.

Mary McGonigle-Martin, 52, of Murrieta, says she didn't fully grasp the health risks when her 7-year-old son Chris was sickened in the 2006 outbreak. Pro-raw-milk websites and conspicuous advertisements at her local health foods store convinced her that raw milk could be a safe, natural remedy for her son's chronic sinus congestion. She bought Organic Pastures milk after reading about the farm online. "That they tested the milk and they'd never found a pathogen -- the testing was what sold me," said McGonigle-Martin, a school counselor.

Even with sophisticated lab tests, E. coli can be much harder to detect in milk than in, say, ground beef, said Michael Payne, a UC Davis food safety expert. "I have zero faith that there exists technologies that currently allow for the adequate on-farm testing of raw milk for pathogens," he said.

Chris Martin developed HUS, experienced kidney failure, and at one point required a ventilator. "My choice almost killed my child," said McGonigle-Martin. For other parents, she stresses that drinking and serving raw milk is a personal choice that should be made knowing all the risks.

 "You better know what pathogens could be in the milk and what could result," said McGonigle-Martin. "If you can't name those diseases and illnesses, then you shouldn't be making the choice."

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