Health Beat with Dr. Alicia Arnold: Consumption of raw or unpasteurized milk

Last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a policy statement about consumption of raw or unpasteurized milk or milk products in pregnant women and children. On Monday morning, Dr. Alicia Arnold joined us to explain.

Meghan Kulig: Why are they advising that these groups of people especially avoid raw milk?

Dr. Arnold: Pregnant women, children, the elderly, and anyone who has a compromised immune system, such as individuals receiving chemotherapy, are particularly susceptible to getting sick from raw milk.

Meghan Kulig: What percent of dairy products are unpasteurized?
Dr. Arnold: It's estimated to be about one to three percent of consumed dairy products.

Meghan Kulig: What kind of illnesses can people get from raw milk?

Dr. Arnold: Unpasteurized milk and milk products can contain germs like Salmonella, E.Coli, and Listeria. You can get diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and body aches. Most people do recover on their own, but occasionally people get seriously ill and have long-term complications. It is also possible that there could be harm to the fetus of a pregnant woman.

Meghan Kulig: What are some of the myths about raw milk?

Dr. Arnold: Some people believe that people who are lactose intolerant or allergic to milk can safely consume raw milk. This is not true. Also, research has shown no meaningful difference in the nutrients of pasteurized versus unpasteurized milk.

Meghan Kulig: Some people may be wondering if using hygienic farming practices can make raw milk safe?

Dr. Arnold: It may reduce but not eliminate the risk. It's impossible to tell just by looking at the milk or looking at the animal, whether there is contamination or not.

Meghan Kulig: What about foods made from raw milk?

Dr. Arnold: They pose the same risk as raw milk. Examples are any cheese made from unpasteurized milk, such as some soft cheeses or some Mexican-style cheeses like Queso Blanco or Queso Fresco. Always read the label to see if it is made from pasteurized or unpasteurized milk.

Meghan Kulig: Has there been any recent local research?

Dr. Arnold: There was a recent study based in Minnesota that estimated that seventeen percent of raw milk consumers became sick after consuming raw milk. Children were also disproportionally affected and one infant even died.

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