3-Year-Old Dies After Drinking Raw Milk, 4 Others Hospitalized

milk bottleThere are some people who drink raw or unpasteurized milk because they don't want to consume processed milk and they believe the nutrients are more beneficial, but the Center for Disease Control warns that the bacteria in raw milk can be harmful. A 3-year-old has died as a result of drinking raw milk -- four other children are seriously ill. But the raw milk they drank wasn't labeled for consumption even though parents were reportedly purchasing it for their families to drink.

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The unpasteurized cow's milk in question in three of the cases was from Gippsland's Mountain View Farm in Australia. All the children were from Australia as well. Vicki Jones, the farm owner, has said that all batches of the raw milk passed the tests for E. coli, salmonella, listeria, and campylobacter. But she also said that the label clearly marks the raw milk as a cosmetic product -- it's a milk bath -- not to be consumed. It is illegal to sell raw milk for consumption in Australia. The US has state-by-state laws regarding the sale of raw milk. For example, California allows the retail sale of raw milk for consumption, but New York does not unless it is purchased directly from a farm. 

A health food store owner in Melbourne admitted she knew that even though the raw milk is not labeled for consumption, many of her customers purchased it to drink. Mick Kir, the owner of Upper Gully Organics, which also sells unpasteurized milk, says he sells more than 200 liters of it a week and never heard of anyone getting sick after drinking it. He drinks it as a part of his prostate cancer treatment.

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Many of us drink raw milk. But we cannot ignore the fact that a child has died and four others were sickened from drinking it. The 3-year-old child developed a rare bacterial illness called haemolytic uraemic syndrome, which can lead to kidney failure and death. Two of the other children (who were between 1 and 5 years old) also developed the same illness but recovered. The two other children had a parasitic infection called cryptosporidiosis. The risk of drinking raw milk is greater for children, along with pregnant women and the elderly or those with health issues. A child's gut flora is still developing, and if there is a bacteria too strong to fight off, that's when there could be a life-threatening situation. Authorities in Australia are warning everyone that they should not drink raw, unpasteurized milk.

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However, it isn't clear if all the children sickened by drinking raw milk were given it as a drink or they accidentally ingested it. A raw bath milk would still be stored in the refrigerator, and it could be that one or more of these children drank it thinking it was pasteurized milk. Though that seems unlikely particularly for the younger children. And we know that many are purchasing this in Australia to drink. No matter where you stand on drinking raw milk, the only way I would drink it is if it were packaged for consumption. But remember, in Australia there is nowhere to purchase it legally to drink, and many swear by its health properties. The 3-year-old's death is terribly sad, especially since the parents most likely thought they were giving their child the best and most natural drink so the child can thrive. Hopefully the health authorities can come together to figure out the best way to move forward here.

A new report in the US is showing that the number of people sickened from drinking raw milk has been increasing since more and more states are allowing its retail sale. The CDC stated that over 80 percent of the illnesses and hospitalizations from drinking unpasteurized milk were in states where its sale is legal, which is now up to 30 states. There is a noted health risk, but many feel it's worth taking.

Where do you stand on the raw milk debate? Do you drink it?

 

Image via Martin Moscosa/Flickr

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