Young people were much more likely to get sick from raw milk products than pasteurized items. Where ages were available, people younger than age 20 accounted for 60 percent of patients in raw milk outbreaks, compared with 23 percent of patients in pasteurized milk outbreaks.
During the study period, about 2.7 trillion pounds of milk was produced in the United States. By comparing that amount to the estimated 27 billion pounds (1 percent) consumed raw, the study authors determined that raw milk products cause 150 times more outbreaks than pasteurized milk.
The study appears Feb. 21 in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, published by the CDC.
It's impossible for consumers to tell if raw milk is safe to drink by looking at, smelling, or tasting it, the CDC said.
"Restricting the sale of raw milk products is likely to reduce the number of outbreaks and can help keep people healthier. The states that allow sale of raw milk will probably continue to see outbreaks in the future," Tauxe said.
Study co-author Barbara Mahon, deputy chief of the CDC's Enteric Diseases Epidemiology Branch, said in the news release: "While some people think that raw milk has more health benefits than pasteurized milk, this study shows that raw milk has great risks, especially for children, who experience more severe illnesses if they get sick.
"Parents who have lived through the experience of watching their child fight for their life after drinking raw milk now say that it's just not worth the risk," she added.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more about raw milk.
-- Robert Preidt
SOURCE: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, news release, Feb. 21, 2012
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