Yesterday I was speaking to a mother of a child who recently developed Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome as a result of consuming a raw milk product.  It is evident from her grief that she felt she was doing something healthful for her child and had no idea of the risks that a raw milk product contain.  She felt that all the products, but especially “grass-fed” raw milk, sold at her local co-op, being local, organic, non-GMO, etc., could never put her child at death’s door.

With two raw milk E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks in the news (one in Washington and one in California) that have sickened at least eight – five with Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, I thought an updated chart of over a decade of raw milk and raw milk cheese outbreaks would be timely.  Download: Outbreaks from Unpasteurized (Raw) Milk and non-­Mexican Style Raw Milk Cheeses, United States, 1998-­2011.

In lieu of banning raw milk products, some states have adopted regulations that attempt to protect public health and allow for consumer choice.  I would suggest the following:

  1. Raw milk and products should be sold only on farms (“Know your farmer, know your food.”  “I know my food is safe, because I can look the farmer in the eye.”) that are certified by the state and inspected and tested regularly.  Make ambiguous black market raw milk and products and “pet food sales” meant for human consumption clearly illegal;
  2. Raw milk and products should not be sold in grocery stores or across state lines – the risks of mass production and transportation are too great; the risk of a casual purchase by someone misunderstanding the risks is too great, as well;
  3. Farms should be required to have insurance coverage sufficient to cover reasonable damages to their customers;
  4. Practices such as outsourcing (buying raw milk from farms not licensed for raw milk production) should be illegal;
  5. Colostrum should be regulated as a dairy product, not a nutritional supplement;
  6. Warning signs on pruducts and at point-of-purchase should be mandatory.  An example:

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For more information on the real risks of raw milk, see REAL RAW MILK FACTS DOT COM.