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Pediatricians Oppose Raw Milk Consumption

Pregnant women, children, and infants should consume only pasteurized milk and milk products, and the sale of raw milk should be banned in the United States, according to a new policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The statement was published online December 16 inPediatrics.

"[A]mong milk- or milk product–associated foodborne illness outbreaks reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention between 1973 and 2009, 82% were attributable to raw milk or cheese," the statement notes. The populations at highest risk for illness from consumption of raw milk are young children, as well as pregnant women and their fetuses, the statement continues.

In discussing the importance of raw milk products as a potential source of illness, the statement authors review numerous studies that have documented the association between consumption of unpasteurized milk and milk products and bacterial infection. The authors note that there are no scientific studies that support the purported health benefits of raw milk consumption. Moreover, there is "strong scientific evidence that pasteurization does not alter the nutritional value of milk."

The AAP policy statement notes that "[v]irtually all national and international advisory and regulatory committees related to food safety have strongly endorsed the principles of consuming only pasteurized milk and milk products." This position is strongly supported by the AAP, particularly for pregnant women, infants, and children.

In addition, the statement authors point out that although the US Food and Drug Administration has banned the interstate sale of raw milk products since 1987, the FDA has no jurisdiction in the regulation of milk sanitation within individual states. At this time, 30 states allow the sale of raw milk products, some of which allow the sale of raw milk in grocery stores. Given the preponderance of data regarding the risk for illness associated with the consumption of these products, the AAP endorses a ban on this practice and encourages pediatricians to contact their state representatives in support of this ban.

The authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

Pediatrics. Published online December 16, 2013.

Medscape Medical News December 16, 2013