TUESDAY, Feb. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Raw, or unpasteurized, milk causes 150 times more dairy product-related disease outbreaks than pasteurized milk. And states where the sale of raw milk is legal have twice as many outbreaks as states where it is illegal, according to a new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study.
"This study shows an association between state laws and the number of outbreaks and illnesses from raw milk products," Dr. Robert Tauxe, deputy director of CDC's division of foodborne, waterborne and environmental diseases, said in an agency news release.
The 13-year review looked at more than 120 dairy product-related outbreaks that occurred in 30 states between 1993 and 2006. The outbreaks caused more than 4,400 illnesses, 239 hospitalizations and three deaths.
Raw milk products -- including cheese and yogurt -- caused 73 of the outbreaks (60 percent) and most of the 239 hospitalizations.
Some people mistakenly believe that raw milk is a healthier alternative to pasteurized milk, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Its website debunks the notion that raw milk is less likely than pasteurized milk to cause lactose intolerance, an inability to digest milk products.
Unless milk is pasteurized -- heated to kill harmful bacteria -- bacteria can accumulate in collected milk, multiply and cause illness, the researchers said.
The study found that 13 percent of patients in raw milk outbreaks were hospitalized, compared with 1 percent of those made ill by pasteurized milk products. This may be because raw milk outbreaks were all caused by bacteria, such as E. coli O157, that tend to provoke more severe illness, according to the study.
On the other hand, pasteurized milk and cheese outbreaks were often caused by milder infections, such as norovirus and Staphylococcus aureus.
Fifty-five of the outbreaks reviewed occurred in the 21 states where it was
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