I almost hate to say it too loud, but there sure hasn’t been a lot of news over the last year or so about raw milk outbreaks. 

It may well not be my imagination, because there’s a new study out suggesting that ever-more-widespread good-hygiene practices are responsible for significantly reducing the number of illness outbreaks from raw milk. 

The downward trend is something we first got formal wind of in 2018, with word that a study showed something on the order of a 74% decline in outbreaks from 2005 to 2017. 

Now, a new study about to be published in the academic journal, Epidemiology and Infection, by two European researchers, concludes that the decline documented in the 2018 paper was no accident, but rather because of “the increased awareness and attention to milk hygiene and safety in production in North America. There are dedicated raw milk producers that have become highly qualified and methodical in the production of hygienically produced safe raw milk and organisations are developing to assist raw milk producers. “

The authors of the new study, A.C. Berge and T. Baars,  credit America’s Raw Milk Institute (RAWMI), with 18 members,  and Canada’s British Columbia Herdshare Association, with 10 members, with helping establish and spread to nonmembers the tough hygiene standards being used to produce raw milk much safer than that commonly produced a decade and more ago. 

They blame a lack of interest by regulators in training raw dairy producers for having slowed the hygiene gains of recent years. The authors says that “most outbreaks associated with raw milk are associated with dairy farms that have not received specific training in hazard reduction and hygienic milking procedures. Several generations of farmers have now become used to the system where bulk tank milk is pasteurised, and there is no direct link between the producer and the consumers. Thereby sub-optimal hygienic practices have unfortunately over time become established.” 

They conclude that “good biosecurity, animal management, hygienic milking techniques, quick cooling and thereafter a good cold chain can provide hygienic and safe raw milk, similarly to other raw foods. Furthermore, regular microbiological controls of the raw milk can continually evaluate the systems. Safe and hygienic raw milk can be accomplished in various dairy farm systems ranging from small family cow systems to very large dairies with state-of-the-art equipment.” 

It may be that raw dairy farmers are finally getting the hang of producing safe raw milk.