by Marion Nestle
Jul 24 2010

Recent food safety problems caused by raw milk

It’s a hot weekend and I’m feeling lazy, so I will do a bit of borrowing and reproduce Bill Marler’s summary of year-to-date illnesses caused by raw milk products (click on the chart to make it bigger and easier to read).

On his website devoted to the topic,, Marler presents a litigator’s view of the issues related to raw milk, with plenty of documents to back of his position.

My view: everyone who produces food should produce safe food.  If I were producing raw milk, I’d be testing it like mad to make sure it didn’t harbor dangerous pathogens, but that’s just me.

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  • kenji

    Not to be a noodge but the March outbreak in IN/MI had more than 12 people sickened, not just 8. His source’s data wasn’t complete at the time of the press release.

    I also know that there’s been less than 2000 reported people getting ill from raw milk since 1998, out of millions of people drinking it but if you were one of the 2000 it would make a difference.

  • Maybe you can actually VISIT someone who produces raw milk?

    You mention feeling lazy and it shows here – where are your numbers for illnesses that arise from factory milk?

  • Kelly

    Nika beat me to my question…how does this compare to illnesses from pasteurized milk?

  • Kenji – thanks – do you have a source document for the 12? Also, the site is

  • Anthro

    The sad thing is that most people who beat the drum for raw milk drink it because they “believe” in unscientific ideas that credit raw milk with all sorts on nonsensical health benefits. This might be fine for adults, but when a child is sickened from raw milk, he will likely be sicker and in more danger than the adult who made the choice for him.

    To Nika and Kelly: I doubt if ANYONE gets sick from pasteurized milk, unless they drink it way past the sell-date. I think this is called a straw man argument.

  • Anthro: I AM a scientist (PhD) and we DO drink our milk raw. I do not go about campaigning for raw milk.

    If you want to eat this or that, by all means, far it be from me to tell you what to consume (same the other way tho too).

    It sounds like you have zero clue what you are talking about re: disease arising from factory milk and the only person who can fix that problem is you. I hope you look a bit deeper.

  • Where I live in CT, USA farmers are required to test raw milk once a week, but we still have outbreaks that aren’t caught in time.

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  • I thought this was a free country… why can’t people who want to drink raw milk be allowed to?

    The answer is that it’s not about safety – the dairy industry is trying to protect their market, and they do this by trying to discredit the raw milk farmers. You see, factory-farm milk production is so filthy that they can’t offer clean raw milk – they have to pasteurize.

  • Jill

    Bill Marler wrote a blog about contaminated pasteurized milk:

    I agree with Dr. Nestle – producers of raw milk should make sure their products are safe – that goes for any food producer.

  • If you think milk’s production should be done carefully and lovingly enough that it’s safe to drink raw, I salute you.

    And if you’re in or near Chicago, you can join the supper club of which I’m a part, Clandestino. We’re holding raw milk dinners Aug. 20 and 21, where every dish involves the use of (SAFE) raw milk.

    This and many other “underground” operations like mine is fine dining at its best, folks, and ours has all the food edu-tainment you can muster.

    P.S. – Marion, it’s me, Brandon, the journalism student that contributed for a while to Fed Up With School Lunch.


  • kenji

    Bill, with a quick glance back to March 26th I found this:

    I think if you go into April the numbers might have gone closer to 18 people or so, in some articles.

    Living in chicago we got a bunch of press reports because it was geographically close.

  • Its odd how people who supposedly believe in freedom don’t believe folks have the right to do something as simple as making there own food choices.

    I wouldn’t dream of calling for the closing of MickyD’s, or any other fast food garbage seller. I wouldn’t presume to tell you not to eat that overprocessed, GMO laden, chemical swamp that is sold in the average supermarket…why do you presume to tell me what I may eat? Where do you…or the government…get that power?

    Marler is a coward who won’t even address the rights part of choosing our own food. He was given an opportunity to refute an argument for food rights on legal grounds…he declined.

    Personally, I think it’s because he knows he’d lose…and as Marler himself has so arrogantly said, “I never lose.”

    He’s probably right. A coward who won’t engage in battle doesn’t lose.

    For those interested, the article he can’t refute is here:

    Bob Hayles

  • Moshi

    The nation’s largest recorded outbreak of Salmonella was due to PASTEURIZED milk contaminated with antibiotic-resistant Salmonella typhimurium. The outbreak, which occurred between June 1984 and April 1985 sickened over 200,000 and caused 18 deaths.,2933,321171,00.html

  • Moshi

    The nation’s largest recorded outbreak of Salmonella was due to PASTEURIZED milk contaminated with antibiotic-resistant Salmonella typhimurium. The outbreak, which occurred between June 1984 and April 1985 sickened over 200,000 and caused 18 deaths.

    Bacteria-Contaminated Milk from Massachusetts Dairy is Blamed for 3 Deaths, Miscarriage,2933,321171,00.html

  • Anthro

    Well, Nika, I DID say “most people”, which is meant to allow for exceptions. Both your posts are quite rude, so there is little reason to take you seriously.

    To those who make this a “choice” issue: I don’t think Marion, me, or anyone else wants to prevent you drinking raw milk if you so choose. Marion simply wants the milk to be safe. I am a little more interested in your reasons. I maintain that most people who drink raw milk think it has some magical health benefits and that this is simply not true. Show me the evidence if you disagree–peer-reiviewed and published in a scientific journal, please. Also, I could care less if you adults who drink the stuff get sick, but I DO care about your children who don’t get to make their own choices about these things.

  • I agree with Marion Nestle. While selling food products one should see that the food he is selling is nutritive and does not cause harm to anyone.
    -anna smith

  • Jennifer Feeney

    I followed the link to the Real Raw Milk Facts site and reported raw milk outbreaks. I followed the links to the reports of outbreak. I got about half way through the chart and one thing seemed clear: most of the cases that are reported have not been confirmed. I looked further and found that, once again, in most cases the farms were not found infected. Reports say people have been sickened after reporting that they drank raw milk. But if there is no evidence at the farm, how can these outbreaks be included on the list? I am going to systematically go through the entire chart and see what I find. I’m curious if proponents of pasteurization have done this research as well? I am, honestly, still on the fence. Hence my desire to do more research.