by on May 15, 2014

in News

The consumption of raw or unpasteurized milk and milk products by children and pregnant women concerns pediatricians and public health officials.

The May 2014 edition of Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, carries a policy statement decrying this trend in North America. It is sure to antagonize a number of people who argue with government regulators that the consumption of raw milk may not be dangerous, and that government regulation is one more example of over-regulation.

The sale of raw or unpasteurized milk and milk products are not uniformly illegal in North America. (In Alberta an act known as the Alberta Industry Act prohibits the sale of raw milk.)
This Act has offended groups such as Raw Milk Alberta and Real Milk Alberta who support and encourage the use of raw and unpasteurized milk. (Their concerns can be followed on the Facebook page of Raw Milk Alberta or the Twitter page of Real Milk Alberta– see @RealMilkAlberta)

The list of perceived benefits of raw milk are: a reduction of allergies, asthma and eczema; reducing the risk of autism, Crohns Disease and tooth decay; dealing with lactose intolerance; boosting a child’s immune system by providing live bacteria and even reducing the risk of certain cancers.

None of these benefits have been shown to be real in objective, prospective studies, mainly because some researchers would deem it unethical to expose pregnant women and young children to unpasteurized milk, fearing the risks of infections that can lead to food borne illnesses and in rare cases death.

There is no evidence that raw milk products or cheeses such as soft-ripened cheeses are beneficial for those who suffer from a lactose intolerance.

Pateurization of milk became a standard practice almost 100 years ago. The modern pasteurization process consists of raising the temperature of milk to 70 Celsius (161 degrees F) for more than 15 seconds, followed by rapid cooling.

Proponents of raw milk consumption argue that this process strips milk from various nutrients such as protein, vitamins, enzymes, calcium and probiotics.

Raw milk from cows, goats and sheep continue to be a source of bacteria such as Listeria monocytogenes, Campylobacter jejuni, Salmonella, Brucella abortus, and E Coli 0157 . The latter infection is also known for its devastating impact on the brain and kidneys—a condition named Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome. (For a video presentation of how a young girl sustained a stroke after ingesting raw milk contaminated by E Coli see www.realrawmilkfacts.com)

The consumption of raw milk or milk products such as cheese has been associated with a five-fold increase in toxoplasmosis among pregnant women; listeriosis is associated with a high rate of stillbirths, preterm delivery and neonatal infections such as sepsis and meningitis. Close to 33% of all cases of invasive disease attributable to Listeria occur among pregnant women, unborn fetuses or newborn babies—a 17 fold increase compared with the general population.

Proponents of raw milk consumption remain unimpressed by epidemiological data and argue that the source of the raw milk, if carefully researched, can reduce the risks for infections. They argue that raw goats milk is safer than cows milk because goat fecies are firmer than cow manure and thus less likely to contaminate milk. In addition some supporters of raw milk consumption claim that grass-fed animals produce safer milk than animals were grain fed

It was thought that a grain-fed cow (typical of a feedlot) produced more acid in its stomach and that this increased acidity promoted the growth of E Coli 0157:H7 Recent research failed to confirm that hypothesis. In addition recent outbreaks of E Coli and Campylobacter were linked to grass fed cows and goats.

The question “Is drinking raw milk directly from a farm safer” is a valid question to consider since many people who grew up on a farm drank raw milk and never got sick. This question is answered in more detail under the Hot Topics button of www.realrawmilkfacts.com, but there is some scientific evidence that farmers and their families develop immunity to the germs their animals carry.

Some families want nothing to do with any milk products—pasteurized or raw. They opt for soy-based milk. But even here there are concerns such as the soy source coming from GMO products.
A search on both the websites of the Canadian Pediatric Society (www.cps.ca) or the AAP (www.aap.org) failed to give any useful information on the potential risks of GMO foods in children.

Personally I find this frustrating when more and more patients want to get information on this controversial topic. My advice to families who are focused on consuming soy products is to ensure that it be organic and to understand the fact that the last chapter on the safety—or dangers—of GMO foods, especially in children and pregnant women, is far from being written.
For more information on soy foods and health see www.kidshealth.org


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