Outbreaks from Foodborne Pathogens in Raw Milk and Raw Milk Cheeses, United States 1998-present

Crazy Bus.jpgThese tables were compiled by the Real Raw Milk Facts working group through searches of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) online foodborne disease outbreak database (1998-2009).  Because the CDC database has about a two-year lag period, preliminary data was gathered from government and dairy industry press releases, reports, and newsletters to document recent outbreaks (2010-present).  Information on farm type and size was taken from the implicated dairy’s website, when available. 


  • 118 total outbreaks
  1. 85 fluid milk:  17 cow, 4 goat, 64 unspecified milk type
  2. 27 cheese:  2 aged, 3 homemade, 17 Mexican-style queso fresco, 1 goat chevre, 1 curds, 3 unspecified
  3. 6 multiple raw dairy products (fluid milk, cheese, and/or colostrum)
  • 2,123 total illnesses, 2 deaths
  1. 1,490 fluid milk-related illnesses, no deaths:  225 cow, 63 goat, 1,202 unspecified
  2. 576 cheese-related illnesses:  46 aged, 80 homemade, 324 Mexican-style queso fresco (2 deaths), 5 goat chevre, 63 curds, 58 unspecified cheese type
  3. 57 multiple raw dairy products-related illnesses (fluid milk, cheese, and/or colostrum)

Download PDF of all outbreaks and recalls since 1998.

  • Dear Bill:
    The wheels have come off, but the bus is still on the road causing a major risk to consumers.
    Social, political and economic forces are fueling a public health crisis.
    Without any real proof that raw milk drinkers enjoy better health, the marketing of raw milk continues to be successful with those seeking a healthier diet. Campaigns to dissuade raw milk drinkers are confounded by perceptions. Raw milk advocates truly believe that this product is healthy in spite of the growing number of illnesses.
    Changing the paradigm requires more than just legislation. Our politicians readily accept the political advantage of tying into the needs of small dairy farmers. These farmers are at the center of the issue. There is no one in the food industry I know of that is more iconic in the minds of the American people than a farmer; it’s nearly impossible to portray such folks as a menace.
    I believe that at least three important things must happen to thwart the spread of these phenomena:
    First and foremost there must be economic incentives for small dairy producers not to produce raw milk products, then add the continued pressure from lawsuits, and then legislation.
    To simply break even, a dairy farmer must have at least 200 head (2007). To be slightly profitable, this herd must be at least 400. Seattle University had an important study supporting these data.
    Legislation alone will not solve the problem, nor will repeat calls to ban the product.
    The dairy industry as a group is seen in a poor light because of the demise of the small farm and the rise of large cooperatives that exclude small milk producers. This economic reality must change, and only the dairy industry can make that happen. I have repeatedly made this case to the dairy industry, but the response has been more of the same ineffective calls for legislation and banning the product; a politically impossible strategy.
    These punative tactics have not worked, they are actually part of the problem, and the sale of raw milk will not stop until the economic fairness issue is resolved.

  • I agree that trying to ban raw milk isn’t working. Perhaps we should treat it like alcohol or tobacco, and make it so that giving raw milk to minors is the major offense? I mean, clearly, minors are the ones that are at the most risk, just like with other regulated products. Obviously this is likely easier said than done, but it is an interesting concept that I think we ought to think about.