It seems that almost any outbreak of illnesses potentially involving raw milk products prompts handwringing by the media, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), not to mention state and local public health agencies. I have yet to see a mainstream media article about raw dairy that doesn’t include warnings from federal or local public health officials about its dangers. 


Yet when people get sick from pasteurized dairy products, it’s a whole different ball game. We saw that in the article discussed following my previous post, about illnesses from bad milk among children at a Henrico County school in Virginia. There wasn’t even a mention that the milk was pasteurized. And can you imagine any media reporting on illnesses from raw milk, that the victims “exhibited ‘mild gastrointestinal symptoms’ that passed quickly”? Certainly if I said it, I’d be excoriated by raw milk opponents as totally insensitive and biased, especially since it was children who were sickened. 


This minor example of the reporting double standard turns up repeatedly. I just examined official government reports  (one from CDC and the other from FDA) on two of the most recent pasteurized-dairy outbreaks, involving cheese, one from a Wisconsin producer and the other from a Delaware producer. Here are a few things I noticed:


-The reports never mention pasteurized milk. It’s just cheese that got the people sick. At the end of one of the reports, it mentions potential problems in the production facilities that could have led to the contamination. 


-The illnesses, all from listeria monocytogenes, were very serious. In the case of the Wisconsin illnesses from Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese, each of the six people sickened was hospitalized, and one of them died. In the case of the Delaware cheese illnesses, from Roos Foods, seven of the eight people made ill were hospitalized, and one died. Gee, two deaths in two pasteurized dairy outbreaks within the last year, and very little fuss.  And outbreaks in which more than 90 per cent of those made ill wind up in the hospital is highly unusual. 


-They downplay illnesses involving children.  The description of the Roos Foods outbreak from the FDA is particularly interesting in its wordsmithing. The reality is that three infants became very sick, but here is how the FDA describes the eight illnesses: “Five of the illnesses were related to a pregnancy; two of these were diagnosed in two mother–newborn pairs, and one in only the newborn. The three other illnesses occurred among adults.  One death was reported in California.” So two illnesses in newborns are air-brushed as occurring in “mother-newborn pairs.” And how old was the individual who died? No word on that, so I suppose you have to use your imagination; my guess is that if it had been an adult, FDA would have said so. 


One other thing: there’s no mention at all that illnesses from listeria in raw-milk cheese are quite rare. And there hasn’t been a listeria illness from fluid raw milk in at least a decade. 


And can you imagine if there had been two deaths from raw dairy products within the last year? Why, you’d never hear the end of it. 


Now, Real Raw Milk Facts, the anti-raw-milk web site, to its credit, breaks out illnesses and deaths from pasteurized dairy products. As you can see, the Crave Brothers and Roos Foods outbreaks have pushed pasteurized cheese illnesses since 1998 to over 600, and total pasteurized dairy deaths to ten. Not exactly the safety guarantee we have been led to expect. 

All goes to show that you have to read the media and government reports on raw and pasteurized dairy much differently. I think it’s called a double standard.