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Pediatricians urge pregnant women to avoid raw milk products

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On December 16, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published a policy statement online in its journal Pediatrics. It noted that raw milk and milk products from cows, goats, and sheep, are a source of harmful bacteria; thus, pregnant women should avoid their consumption. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, the sale of raw milk and raw milk products is currently legal in at least 30 states, including California. The policy statement recommends banning the sale of raw milk products in every state in the nation.

The policy statement noted that raw milk and raw milk products may contain Listeria monocytogenes, Campylobacter jejuni, Escherichia coli, Salmonella species, and Brucella species. These bacteria can cause serious infections in healthy individuals, including seniors, infants, and young children. They also can cause infections in pregnant women and their unborn fetuses. The policy statement notes that pregnant women, infants, children, and immunocompromised individuals are at greatest risk. The Pasteurization process kills these harmful bacteria; it involves heating the milk to at least 161 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 15 seconds and then rapidly cooling it. However, advocates of raw milk products claim that these product have health benefits, which are destroyed with Pasteurization. Studies have been conducted to confirm these purported benefits; however high-quality, evidence-based studies do not support these benefits. The policy statement notes that the risks of raw milk consumption far outweighs any purported benefits.

The policy statement notes that foodborne illness causes substantial morbidity and mortality in the US. It is currently estimated that each year, as many as 48 million Americans experience foodborne illness, accounting for128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. Consumption of raw milk products is one of the most preventable causes of these foodborne illnesses. The statement notes that essentially all national and international advisory and regulatory committees related to food safety strongly recommend consumption of only Pasteurized milk and milk products. These include the American Medical Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the International Association for Food Protection, the National Environmental Health Association, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the World Health Association (WHO). In January 2012, based on its analysis of the scientific basis for the safety benefits of Pasteurization, the US federal government denied a petition that requested federal-level legalization of all raw milk sales.

The policy statement concluded that the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly supports the position of the FDA and other national and international associations in endorsing the consumption of only Pasteurized milk and milk products for pregnant women, infants, and children. The academy also endorses a ban on the sale of raw or unpasteurized milk and milk products throughout the United States, including the sale of certain raw milk cheeses, such as fresh cheeses, soft cheeses, and soft-ripened cheeses. The complete policy statement can be viewed at this link.

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