Poster image from from 1946 movie poster, available from don’t know of another food that gets as much attention from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control as raw milk. Round and round the agency goes, presenting “research” that slams raw milk, arguing, yet again, that raw milk should be banned, never presenting helpful safety guidelines. 


It has done studies to “show” that raw milk is 150 times more dangerous than pasteurized. It funded a study in Minnesota to “show” that more than 20,000 people during the first decade of this century got sick from raw milk there, rather than the 21 the state officially reported. Raw milk is the only food that warrants its own CDC-sponsored web site about its dangers. 


Each of these studies and presentations is deeply flawed, and now the agency is out with another, equally flawed study, purporting to demonstrate that raw milk is not only as highly dangerous as it has been since the beginning of civilization, but getting more dangerous. Its evidence? “The number of US outbreaks caused by nonpasteurized milk increased from 30 during 2007–2009 to 51 during 2010–2012.” 


Now, that sure does sound ominous. Until you realize a few things. The CDC talks, once again, about the number of outbreaks rather than the number of illnesses. An outbreak can include as few as two illnesses, all the way up to many thousands of illnesses. So, it’s possible to have a few outbreaks with many illnesses, and vice versa. What happened during those two periods in terms of the number of people who got sick? Tellingly, the CDC doesn’t say. You know when the CDC omits data, it’s only because the data doesn’t help its propaganda campaign.  


The only reference the CDC makes to the number of illnesses is to say that during the six years from 2007-2012, “These outbreaks resulted in 979 illnesses and 73 hospitalizations.” That averages out to 163 illnesses per year. Given that there are something on the order of about 15,000 reported illnesses each year in the U.S., that means raw milk illnesses, as measured by the CDC, account for slightly more than one per cent of all reported food-borne illnesses.


The CDC makes no effort to suggest that raw milk producers have become less safety conscious. Indeed, it attributes the increase in illnesses to an increase in demand for raw milk. “Despite the health risks associated with consuming nonpasteurized milk, the demand for nonpasteurized milk has increased.” That’s about the only thing that makes sense—increase the demand for any food, and chances are the number of illnesses will also rise. 


The important question is whether the number of illnesses is increasing as quickly or more slowly than the rise in demand.  Of course,there is no effort to correlate illnesses with consumption. That’s because trying to answer that question would take the CDC into the realm of real science, and that’s not where these Tokyo Roses of modern U.S. food safety want to hang out. (If you don’t know who Tokyo Rose was, you can get an idea from the poster above—she was a master of Japanese propaganda, trying to demoralize American soldiers during World War II, not unlike the CDC trying to demoralize American consumers who seek raw dairy products, and the farmers who produce them). 


I originally wasn’t going to write about this CDC rubbish. Why should I give weight to something that deserves to be ignored? I eventually concluded that because such CDC propaganda is distributed so widely—for example, Time Magazine gave this latest raw milk study a big writeup—it’s important for the sake of the public record that the CDC’s systematic campaign of half truths (that’s really what propaganda is) be challenged. 


How, you might ask, can I be so sure the CDC is guilty of spewing propaganda rather than providing important food safety info? Because I know that if the CDC was truly concerned about food safety, and thought that raw milk illnesses were rising more quickly than demand, the agency would be inquiring into what it would take to produce raw milk more safely. It would actually want to give people tools to reduce their risk of illness other than tell them to “choose pasteurized milk and dairy products” (as it does in classic vintage propaganda poster style below right). 


But you’ll notice there isn’t a single word of concern or guidance expressed about how raw milk might be produced more safety. That’s because the CDC is only concerned about serving Big Dairy processors who want to ban raw milk from the U.S. Anything less is defeat, as the agency indicates when it bemoans the fact that raw milk is being legalized in various forms (such as via herdshares) in more states. 


As I have said previously, the CDC actually wants to see illnesses from raw milk increase. By pushing to ban raw milk, it hopes to help in that endeavor, forcing it underground, where illnesses are more likely. How’s that for true public health concern? 

That’s why it’s so important to poke holes in its shoddy research, and document its irresponsible behavior, for the sake of future generations. The CDC is operating under the old adage that if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes truth to many people.