by John O’Donnell
Kennebeck Journal

MAINE COMPASS: Raw milk bill testimony misleading


Many small-farm families and health advocates are among those who drink raw, unpasteurized milk that is produced by the few cows on those small farms. A 2008 survey of 17,372 people conducted for the Centers for Disease Control found that 3 percent of the U.S. population drinks raw milk. That works out to around 12 million people today.

Sickness from raw milk is virtually non-existent, yet our government agencies continue to hire more inspectors at taxpayer expense. Recently, the federal Food and Drug Administration has escalated its campaign against raw milk. Farm raids have occurred in other states, where armed federal, state and local police seize products, computers, records and equipment.

Why have the FDA, the state Department of Agriculture and the dairy trade groups decided they must protect Americans from the dangers of raw milk? I wanted to find out, so I went to the CDC foodborne outbreak and mortality online databases. I used the nine-year period from 1999 to 2007, since it made analyzing the two sets of data comparable. My analysis shows that deaths from foodborne illnesses are a very small percentage of overall mortality in the United States. During this period, of the 21.8 million deaths in the U.S., only 165 deaths were attributed to foodborne illnesses, 0.00076 percent.  What is even more astonishing is that of those 165 deaths attributed to foodborne illnesses, only three deaths were attributable to milk, and those deaths all came from pasteurized skim milk, not raw milk.

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