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Raw Milk A 'Public Health Challenge' For The CDC

Posted on in Food Poisoning

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced that food poisoning outbreaks related to raw milk increased by nearly 70 percent in the last several years. Between 2007 and 2009, 30 such outbreaks were reported, growing to 51 from 2010 to 2012, causing nearly 1000 illnesses. Outbreaks, defined as two or more cases from a common source, occurred in 26 states, including Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Iowa. The CDC determined that Campylobacter infections made up 77 percent of these incidents, while Salmonella and e-Coli infections were also quite common.

According to the study, there were only 3.3 Campylobacter outbreaks per year from 1993 to 2006. Researchers concluded that unpasteurized milk sales was a “public health challenge,” in part because the bacterial infections generally target seniors and children. Adding to the challenge is the reality that each state maintains its own laws regarding pasteurization and raw milk sales. Illinois, for example, only has a partial ban on raw milk sales: consumers may purchase raw milk directly from a dairy farm that meets certain qualifications.

Campylobacter Poisoning

In 1948, Michigan became the first state to require pasteurization, which generally involves heating the milk to kill bacteria. Over the past several years, an increasing number of people have criticized this process, creating a market for raw milk. Raw milk, however, can be risky. Campylobacter is one of the most common food poisoning sources in the United States. Worse, outbreaks are commonly localized occurrences with only two or three cases, making them very difficult to track and stop.

Healthy people generally recover from Campylobacter poisoning in about a week. They may experience dehydration and diarrhea, but these symptoms are generally mild to moderate and may not even require antibiotics. However, for older adults, young children, and persons with unhealthy immune systems, Campylobacter poisoning can lead to serious health issues:

  • Heart and Brain Problems: If the body cannot fight the infection, the bacteria quickly spreads all across the body, and specifically to these two vital organs.

  • Arthritis: A bacterial infection can cause severe joint pain, mouth ulcers, skin sores, and difficulty urinating. These symptoms may come and go over a period of weeks, months, or even longer.

  • Guillain-Barré syndrome: GBS occurs when the body desperately tries to fight off an infection, and the antibodies mistakenly attack the person's immune system. In many instances, the food poisoning symptoms disappear before GBS manifests itself. Victims may experience blurred vision, partial paralysis, and difficulty breathing or swallowing.

Many of the foods we eat every day can be dangerous if proper procedures are circumvented or ignored. If you or someone you love has suffered food poisoning as a result of negligence or improper procedures, you may be entitled to seek damages for both economic and non-economic losses. For a free phone consultation with an aggressive personal injury attorney in Arlington Heights, contact our office today.

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