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Government Data Proves Raw Milk Safe

Thanks to a recent survey by the Centers for Disease control, we finally have the numbers we need to determine the statistical safety of drinking raw milk. Turns out, raw milk really is safer than just about any other food out there — including spinach, peanut butter, and eggs. The risk of contracting an illness from contaminated raw milk is ridiculously small, particularly when you consider the amount of resources the federal government is pouring into undercover investigations of raw milk farmers, raids of buying clubs and co-ops, and creating an anti raw milk campaign.

For years, we’ve known exactly how many people in the U.S. get sick from drinking raw milk (an average of 42 per year). What’s been missing is the baseline — the number of raw milk drinkers in the U.S. In 2007, the CDC conducted a survey to determine the number of raw milk drinkers. And would you believe it? It took them until just a few months ago to make the data public! Running the numbers, it’s not hard to see why…

From a recent press release by the Weston A. Price Foundation:

“At last we have access to the numbers we need to determine the risk of consuming raw milk on a per-person basis,” says Sally Fallon Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation, a non-profit nutrition education foundation that provides information on the health benefits of raw, whole milk from pastured cows.

The key figure that permits a calculation of raw milk illnesses on a per-person basis comes from a 2007 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) FoodNet survey, which found that 3.04 percent of the population consumes raw milk, or about 9.4 million people, based on the 2010 census. This number may in fact be larger in 2011 as raw milk is growing in popularity. For example, sales of raw milk increased 25 percent in California in 2010, while sales of pasteurized milk declined 3 percent.

In addition, Dr. Beals has compiled published reports of illness attributed to raw milk from 1999 to 2010. During the eleven-year period, illnesses attributed to raw milk averaged 42 per year.

“Using government figures for foodborne illness for the entire population, Dr. Beals has shown that you are about thirty-five thousand times more likely to get sick from other foods than you are from raw milk,” says Fallon Morell. “And with good management practices in small grass-based dairies offering fresh unprocessed whole milk for direct human consumption, we may be able to reduce the risk even further.”

“It is irresponsible for senior national government officials to oppose raw milk, claiming that it is inherently hazardous,” says Dr. Beals. “There is no justification for opposing the sale of raw milk or warning against its inclusion in the diets of children and adults.”

According to Pete Kennedy, president of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, “Where raw milk is concerned, the FDA has an agenda apart from protecting the public health. The agency wants to restrict and discourage the sale of unprocessed dairy products. This will have the effect of denying freedom of choice.”

“Every time there is a possible connection between illness and raw milk, government officials issue dire press releases and call for bans on raw milk sales,” says Fallon Morell. “However, these numbers fail to justify the government opposition and prove what we’ve known all along, that raw milk is a safe and healthy food.”

So, there you have it! Raw milk is SAFE, and we know how to make it even SAFER. Put cows out to pasture. Let them eat rapidly growing green grasses. Keep milking facilities well-cleaned and sanitized. Use modern refrigeration and stainless steel holding tanks. Keep milk cold while transporting it. If you choose to drink raw milk, only drink this “good stuff.” Don’t drink raw milk that’s been intended for pasteurization (this usually comes from confinement dairies, and isn’t particularly healthful or clean.) It’s so simple, really!

(photo by suzieblackmon)

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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.

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85 Responses to Government Data Proves Raw Milk Safe
  1. Mary Miller via Facebook
    August 3, 2011 | 1:27 pm

    All of us who grew up drinking raw milk certainly can’t be wrong!

    • Ben
      April 16, 2012 | 2:22 pm

      Well it shows that you were lucky, I grew up drinking raw milk and ended up with scarlet fever from drinking raw milk..

      • Matt
        November 29, 2012 | 9:03 pm

        You got scarlet fever – a non-food-borne illness – from drinking raw milk? Nonsense.

      • Melissa
        December 3, 2012 | 9:28 am

        Scarlet Fever is caused by Group A Streptococcus bacteria (the same bacteria that causes Strep Throat), which CAN be transmitted through foods like raw milk, eggs, ice cream, chicken, etc. but it is more likely to be transmitted through inhalation or touch (close contact). In order for the food to be contaminated, someone who is infected must come in contact with the food. So it is possible for a person to become infected with Scarlet Fever from consuming Raw Milk products, but it is more likely that an individual would become infected at school, their workplace, etc. from an infected individual.

      • Peggy G.
        September 6, 2013 | 5:51 pm

        How was this confirmed, Ben?

  2. April Miles Thornton via Facebook
    August 3, 2011 | 1:33 pm

    I saw this and found it quite compelling. But for some reason, people are still convinced there must be something terribly dangerous about drinking fresh milk. I happen to think there’s something terribly dangerous about consuming the majority of foods sold at my local grocery store. :)

  3. Food Renegade via Facebook
    August 3, 2011 | 1:37 pm

    @Danika — Yes, we’ve been discussing it in a different thread below!

  4. Danika Carter via Facebook
    August 3, 2011 | 1:37 pm

    Oh good :)

  5. Joshua Allen Donini via Facebook
    August 3, 2011 | 1:38 pm

    April, I was just discussing the fact that we have in this country a thing called a “health food store.” It’s a shame that a person can’t walk into just any grocery store and come out with healthy food.
    It’s amazing how much retail space is dedicated to imitation food.

    • A Mom in Michigan
      December 3, 2012 | 5:12 pm

      I completely agree. Priorities related to foods are topsy-turvy.

  6. Beth Jurns via Facebook
    August 3, 2011 | 1:38 pm

    Well-timed, given the raid at Rawesome today in California.

  7. April Miles Thornton via Facebook
    August 3, 2011 | 1:39 pm

    Yes, although even our health food stores often sell a lot of junk, too, unfortunately. But at least they provide many healthy foods that can’t be found at the regular grocery store. :)

  8. Colette Hory via Facebook
    August 3, 2011 | 1:45 pm

    This is so timely! Listen up world! The government just disproved themselves. Now, if only we could get them to pay attention to common sense and actual health of the people instead of big business dollars… “thirty-five thousand times more likely to get sick from other foods than you are from raw milk”

  9. Jenny
    August 3, 2011 | 1:47 pm

    It’s baffling to me that so much energy is put into keeping people from accessing raw milk when other riskier foods are given the green light. Imagine the good that energy could do if it were put in the right direction. In the mean time, every time I pick up my milk I feel like I’m negotiating an undercover drug deal.

  10. Rachel
    August 3, 2011 | 2:01 pm

    Sounds good. Is the actual data released somewhere?

    • KristenM
      August 3, 2011 | 2:17 pm

      Are you speaking about the CDC survey data about the number of raw milk drinkers or the info on the raw milk illnesses? If the analysis of the rate of illnesses, etc., it will be published in the upcoming issue of Wise Traditions, and will probably be compiled online shortly after that.

  11. Shirley Kuhn Dobbins via Facebook
    August 3, 2011 | 2:11 pm

    Then by George, they should step up to the plate and push for raw milk sales to be legal in the US!

  12. Peg Danek via Facebook
    August 3, 2011 | 2:15 pm

    don’t forget the current contamination of ground turkey meat

  13. Melissa Jane Arana Carey via Facebook
    August 3, 2011 | 3:36 pm

    Awesome. I was just looking for this info today! Thanks for posting.

  14. Melissa Jane Arana Carey via Facebook
    August 3, 2011 | 6:36 pm

    Does anyone know where we can get our hands on the gvt reports. Are they all from CDC? Thank you!!!

  15. Dave, RN
    August 3, 2011 | 7:58 pm

    Oh no. And now this:
    http://www.foodrenegade.com/rawsome-foods-raided-again-by-swat/

    They just won’t leave us alone.

  16. Colleen
    August 4, 2011 | 8:07 am

    If they really want to do some research, they ought to follow 2 groups of kids/adults, one drinking raw milk and one drinking the toxic garbage Big Ag calls “milk”. Let’s evaluate each group’s health, how many times they go to the doctor/get sick, health of teeth, etc. THAT would be the true test of which “milk” is really safe!

  17. Jason
    August 4, 2011 | 1:57 pm

    Awesome to hear that they actually said is ok for folks! What a confusing(errr confused) organization the USDA is…

  18. Jessica
    August 4, 2011 | 9:30 pm

    I’m assuming you all know the risks of consuming raw milk during pregnancy. One of the saddest funerals of my life was a infant miscarried at 6 months with a Listeria infection directly transmitted through raw milk.

    • Tom M Culhane
      January 27, 2013 | 1:08 am

      Actually, raw milk is probably the safest thing a woman can consume during pregnancy. People, seek out raw milk drinkers and listen to their testimonials, no tooth decay, never been to a doctor, great health, so many diseases healed. You do not absorb the minerals with pasteurized, the real world evidence shows this. I highly doubt this listeria story is true, but even if it’s one of the 42, balance that against the millions with health benefits, lives saved…

  19. Chris and Christi
    August 4, 2011 | 11:30 pm

    We have our own milking goats and love the freedom of being able to enjoy fresh raw,naturally homogenized milk from these animals. We can only hope that our government will see eye to eye on the truth of the safety in digesting raw milk from cows and goats.

  20. Chris @ Earth Friendly Goodies
    August 8, 2011 | 12:02 pm

    It is really sad that they had to put so much effort into determining if it is safe or not – I mean 42 people get sick a year? That’s pathetic. Too bad they didn’t have a study that showed how many people get sick from the stuff they call milk in the supermarket.

  21. Naomi Devlin
    August 9, 2011 | 9:07 am

    So good to hear it verified! I never got sick drinking raw milk and spooning raw cream onto my carrots.

    However, I and my son got a weird rash of pimples after drinking raw goats milk from a friend. When I looked into it I reached the conclusion that her hygiene wasn’t excellent and that the goats may have been staph carriers, as our rash looked awfully staphyloccocal. This bears out the fact that raw dairies need to be scrupulous about hygiene – as we were in the old days before all those nasty antimicrobal sprays!

    x x x

  22. Http://primaltoad.com
    August 11, 2011 | 7:22 am

    Is the government ever right with their actions? Seriously?! I don’t drink raw milk as I don’t do dairy outside of butter and whey here and there. But, these stats are great news!

  23. Kelly B
    August 13, 2011 | 11:39 pm

    Thanks to “jane” who posted a comment in the Anchorage Daily news i found your site! http://www.adn.com/2011/08/12/2012894/know-the-risks-before-drinking.html

    Yes, I do like it (my milk) raw! We (our fam) also like as much local Alaska grown food we can eat, grow, share. We also shop @ Safeway, Fred Meyer, Costco, and try to make the best choices. having that choice is most important.

  24. Karen Joy
    November 29, 2012 | 1:52 pm

    I am sorry for those who have had poor — or even tragic — experiences with raw milk. However, I find the anecdotal anti-raw-milk comments irrelevant. What we raw-milk proponents are NOT saying is that there is ZERO risk — there are 42 cases yearly of poisoning from contaminated raw milk — we’re saying that the risk is INFINITESIMAL compared to other food-borne illnesses. It’s sad that a few can have a terrible experience with something and the bad word spreads like wildfire. But what these numbers are saying is that, in spite of the few reports of illness from raw milk, the RISK is extremely low.

    • Tom M Culhane
      January 27, 2013 | 8:57 am

      Unfortunately the govt has been slandering raw milk for a long long time. The pharmaceutical cartel makes billions off a sickly, demineralized population. Raw milk would heal so many. I doubt the “tragic” stories here are genuine. Out in the real world I only hear good things about it. It IS accurate to say there’s no risk, because it reduces the risk of serious illness and miscarriage, ie drinking it is safer than not drinking it.

  25. Theresa Weldon
    June 20, 2013 | 2:16 pm

    Bottom line – even the anti-raw milk site Realrawmilkfacts.com data shows there are 8 deaths from PASTEURIZED Milk products verses 2 deaths from RAW milk products.

    http://www.realrawmilkfacts.com/raw-milk-news/story/updated-raw-milk-outbreak-tables/

  26. Peggy G.
    September 6, 2013 | 5:58 pm

    Unfortunately, the only illnesses that are counted tend to be those that cause digestive symptoms. There is no solid data on things like allergies and autoimmune problems caused by pasteurized milk, caused by the immune system’s reaction to the dead bacterial protein that is left in the milk from heating. I have celiac disease and thought that it was good enough to drink homemade kefir made from the best local, organic, grass-fed, but lightly pasteurized milk I could find. It gave me significant sinus congestion and digestive symptoms. After switching to raw milk? The kefir not only causes no sinus congestion, it clear my sinuses if they are congested from something else. And my tummy is calm and happy. My hubby says he will never go back to drinking pasteurized.

  27. Dellaina
    October 28, 2013 | 7:28 pm

    Do you have a link to the CDC study? I would love to share all this wonderful information about raw milk (we’ve been drinking it for years!) but all I’m finding at the CDC website is a bunch of negativity:

    http://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/rawmilk/nonpasteurized-outbreaks.html

  28. Cassie Powell
    November 10, 2013 | 10:35 am

    The risk IS low..until you contract a deadly pathogen from raw milk…as my five year old daughter did and who is now on her 12th day in the hospital with e.coli/HUS. She is receiving dialysis bc her kidneys are shut down. Now its personal and being one of those 42 per year is catastrophic for our family and we are fearful of raw milk. We are in Knoxville, TN.

  29. Connie Nour Hinkle via Facebook
    May 15, 2014 | 7:05 pm

    Abso-freaking-lootley!

  30. Diona Fredo via Facebook
    May 15, 2014 | 7:11 pm

    Yes ma’am! Whole family does!

  31. Christie Blunted Viewz via Facebook
    May 15, 2014 | 7:12 pm

    That’s just nasty. I wont be able to keep you in my list anymore. Good Luck w your cow obsession!

  32. Darcie Mayo via Facebook
    May 15, 2014 | 7:14 pm

    Every day. Even my immune compromised son does..my husband hasn’t been able to drink milk his whole life but now can.. 9 dollars a gallon is tough sometimes but we just do it

  33. Tika Wolff via Facebook
    May 15, 2014 | 7:15 pm

    I can’t drink the processed stuff, it has to be organic or raw or else my stomache kills me

  34. Colleen Dixon via Facebook
    May 15, 2014 | 7:21 pm

    You bet!

  35. Katie Noelle via Facebook
    May 15, 2014 | 7:25 pm

    No, its illegal in my state :(

  36. Sara Turner via Facebook
    May 15, 2014 | 7:26 pm

    I switched from the store bought milk to local, raw milk and my nasal congestion — which I deal with 95% of the time — disappeared. I’m sold!

  37. Jill Herron Chapin via Facebook
    May 15, 2014 | 7:27 pm

    I do, I do! I buy raw goat milk from a family that raises their own food.

  38. Laura Jones via Facebook
    May 15, 2014 | 7:40 pm

    Yep!

  39. Jessica Walker via Facebook
    May 15, 2014 | 7:41 pm

    Yes, from our own goats :)

  40. Shipley Marmion via Facebook
    May 15, 2014 | 7:42 pm

    Yep!

  41. Linda Torgrimson via Facebook
    May 15, 2014 | 7:43 pm

    Yes!

  42. Mary Light via Facebook
    May 15, 2014 | 7:44 pm

    I have used raw dairy over the years and always felt it was very superior to anything commercial, and healthy and safe.

  43. Rich Hurd via Facebook
    May 15, 2014 | 7:56 pm

    When I can get it, yes. It’s far superior to the crap you get from the stupormarket.

  44. Tamara Repsold Schwartz via Facebook
    May 15, 2014 | 8:11 pm

    Yes it’s delicious AND far superior to store bought. The fact that it’s illegal hasn’t stopped me. You can still get it.

  45. Sara Schechla via Facebook
    May 15, 2014 | 8:13 pm

    Yep! Happy to live in legal state! (WA) Pride & Joy Dairy for us, 100% organic & 100% grass fed!!

  46. Corrine Galle via Facebook
    May 15, 2014 | 8:23 pm

    Betsy Frodermann Sandra Fraser Maurer hooray!!!

  47. CustomTattoo TheRick via Facebook
    May 15, 2014 | 8:49 pm

    so maybe the fed will stop wasting money screwing with people out it.

  48. Mari Morgan via Facebook
    May 15, 2014 | 9:18 pm

    Yup. Got a big mug of iced decaf chai latte with Brookford Farm milk right next to me.

  49. Julie Parcells via Facebook
    May 15, 2014 | 9:39 pm

    I wish Marylanders could purchase raw milk!!

  50. Holly Merrick via Facebook
    May 15, 2014 | 9:57 pm

    Leo Pagliei

  51. Cindy Newman via Facebook
    May 15, 2014 | 10:29 pm

    Switched to raw milk years ago. It’s delicious!

  52. Michelle Stanger via Facebook
    May 16, 2014 | 12:34 am

    only from my own cow.

  53. Crystal Moore via Facebook
    May 16, 2014 | 1:54 am

    When I had a connection that made the regular trip down to nearly Waco to pick up… unfortunately it’s not all that easy in Texas. ><

  54. Cheri Bollendorf via Facebook
    May 16, 2014 | 7:42 am

    We drink it & I make kefir from it daily here in Amish country. :)

  55. Yase Benche via Facebook
    May 16, 2014 | 8:26 am

    raw cow milk is good for baby cows, raw goat milk is good for baby goats. No animal’s milk is good for humans, nature just didn’t plan it that way.

  56. Leo Pagliei via Facebook
    May 16, 2014 | 8:41 am

    I have my own cow…but she is a very angry cow. She is so angry I named her Mad-dy. What about my mad cow Holly Merrick

  57. Renee Slattery via Facebook
    May 16, 2014 | 8:50 am

    We have a right to buy raw milk and juice in stores. There are a lot more deadly things in the stores like Tylenol and alcohol. If the government keeps going we won’t be able to buy fresh produce or meat anymore because of the “risks.” It’s crazy. Why don’t they just label it as risky and let us make the decision.

  58. Irmtraud Kemmeter via Facebook
    May 16, 2014 | 10:28 am

    I grew up with drinking raw milk! …and still eat raw milk cheeses!

  59. Trish Truitt via Facebook
    May 16, 2014 | 10:40 am

    Yes and Yum!

  60. Teije Brands via Facebook
    May 16, 2014 | 11:26 am

    milk is for babies, sorry

  61. Karis Post via Facebook
    May 16, 2014 | 1:20 pm

    I would if I I didn’t have to drive 35 miles to get it ….

  62. Melissa Beverly VanNort via Facebook
    May 16, 2014 | 3:32 pm

    Exclusively!

  63. Marcia Bresson via Facebook
    May 16, 2014 | 8:23 pm

    The laws against it make no sense to me. Yes, there might be certain people who should be careful. But there are people who are allergic to peanuts, and they aren’t illegal. There are people who should not eat raw foods because they are getting chemo, and those foods aren’t illegal. Why are all of us banned from getting something because a small group of people might not tolerate it well? Why can’t that small group be warned and the rest of us be free to eat/drink what we want?

  64. Amanda Perron via Facebook
    May 16, 2014 | 11:56 pm

    Heck yes!

  65. Ashley Aselton via Facebook
    July 24, 2014 | 7:51 pm

    I ♡ my raw milk!

  66. Laura Wheeler via Facebook
    July 24, 2014 | 8:44 pm

    So the real question here is, how many people per year are getting sick from PASTEURIZED milk? And how do the percentages compare? I’d stake money on raw being safer, because of opportunistic contamination in processing facilities AFTER Pasteurization, in which case the milk has no natural defense left, and the nasties just run rampant.

  67. Evelyn Heikens via Facebook
    July 24, 2014 | 8:45 pm

    My parents drank it for years. Would take it from the barn every day to drink and use. My dad was 88 when he passed away and my mom was 92 1/2

  68. Trish Truitt via Facebook
    July 24, 2014 | 9:22 pm

    Cheers (clink from a glass of tall raw.)

  69. Rachel McElroy via Facebook
    July 24, 2014 | 9:50 pm

    I never thought I’d say this, but YES. I’ll never go back to the pasteurized/homogenized stuff, even if it’s organic.

  70. Leslie Strobel via Facebook
    July 24, 2014 | 10:03 pm

    So maybe now the government will stop raiding small dairy farms!

  71. A Smaller Footprint via Facebook
    July 25, 2014 | 1:51 am

    WE cannot get raw milk here in Northern Ireland. I have manages to find one supplier that has non-homogenised milk but it is still pasteurized. I only drink enough for one cup of coffee a day so not too concerned.

  72. Lula Forest via Facebook
    July 25, 2014 | 6:15 am

    I can’t drink milk anymore makes me so sick….wonder if I can drink raw milk.

  73. Cheri Bollendorf via Facebook
    July 25, 2014 | 7:30 am

    Our family drinks only raw milk everyday in the form of kefir, including our German Shepherd. <3

  74. Alex Koski via Facebook
    July 25, 2014 | 8:58 am

    If raw milk could be safety removed from a cow by hand and not by machine…I would totally do it.

  75. Christina Beisel via Facebook
    July 25, 2014 | 11:14 am

    It’s not really a victory if politicians won’t read it. This was documented in our fight for raw milk legislation in Montana last year but didn’t change the FDA’s stance that raw milk is dangerous.

  76. Christina Beisel via Facebook
    July 25, 2014 | 11:14 am

    It’s not really a victory if politicians won’t read it. This was documented in our fight for raw milk legislation in Montana last year but didn’t change the FDA’s stance that raw milk is dangerous.

  77. Simi Amiet via Facebook
    July 25, 2014 | 6:29 pm

    really, not long ago they were charging people who carried it over state lines… how ridiculous…

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.
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