Pediatricians to Expectant Moms and Kids: Don’t Drink Raw Milk

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The popularity of unpasteurized milk may pose health risks to young children, the elderly and pregnant women, doctors say.

A statement released from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that although people may think raw milk is healthier and more nutritious than pasteurized milk, those health claims are unfounded. In recent years, advocates have pushed raw milk’s benefits for the body since it does not contain antibiotics or hormones sometimes found in pasteurized milk, which is heated and then rapidly cooled to kill potentially harmful bacteria. Some have even argued that drinking raw milk may prevent lactose intolerance, although no independent studies have backed this up.

The authors of the statement, led by Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, a professor of pediatrics at the Stanford University School of Medicine in California, note that from 1998 to 2009, there were 93 recorded cases of disease outbreaks associated with raw milk or raw-milk products that caused 1,837 illnesses, 195 hospitalizations and two deaths. The majority of the infections were caused by E. coli, salmonella or campylobacter infection. A survey from 2011 concluded that raw milk and its byproducts are legal in 30 states, but only a few states allow them in grocery stores (California is one). “We invented pasteurization to prevent these horrible diseases,” said Maldonado in a statement. “There is really no good reason to drink unpasteurized milk.” Pasteurized milk has the same nutrients, proteins, vitamins and calcium, and is less likely to cause these types of infections.

(MORE: Raw Milk Straight From the Cow)

Interstate shipments and sales of raw milk and products were banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1987, but the agency has no power to prevent products made within a state to be sold within its borders. As part of its new policy, published in the journal Pediatrics, the pediatric group endorses a nationwide ban of raw milk, and encourages doctors to lobby state representatives.

The statement means that the AAP now joins the FDA, the American Medical Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the National Environmental Health Association, the International Association for Food Protection and the World Health Organization in advising people against drinking raw milk.