Consuming soft, raw milk cheese poses risk: experts

Since an outbreak of E. coli connected to contaminated raw milk cheese from British Columbia last month, several media outlets and blogs have indicated it was an isolated incident.

The Canadian Consumer Raw Milk Advocacy Group noted on its website that illnesses related to raw milk cheese are rare and there’s no need to label raw milk cheese as dangerous.

That claim contradicts Health Canada findings.

In a joint report released earlier this year, Health Canada and the United States Food and Drug Administration concluded the risk of food poisoning from raw milk cheese is substantially higher than pasteurized cheese.

In a summary of the report, FDA/Health Canada Quantitative Assessment of the Risk of Listeriosis from Soft-Ripened Cheese Consumption in the United States and Canada, scientists at the two agencies found the risk of contracting listeriosis from soft-ripened, raw milk cheese is 50 to 160 times higher than consuming pasteurized soft-ripened cheese, such as camembert.

As of Sept. 24, the Public Health Agency of Canada noted there have been 22 cases of E. coli illnesses in the country, including one death, from contaminated cheese products from Gort’s Gouda Cheese Farm in Salmon Arm, B.C.

Ten of those cases are from B.C., nine in Alberta and one each from Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec.

The FDA-Health Canada report found that pregnant women in Canada are 52 times more likely to develop listeriosis from unpasteurized cheese compared to pasteurized cheese. In the U.S., pregnant women are 96 times more likely to contract listeriosis, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, blood poisoning and death.

In the U.S. general population, scientists estimated it would take 8.6 billion servings of pasteurized cheese for someone to get sick from cheese contaminated with Listeria Monocytogenes.

In comparison, one in every 55 million servings of raw milk cheese contains enough contaminants to cause a case of listeriosis.

For elderly people the report said one in 2.6 million servings of raw milk cheese would cause a case of listeriosis. For pasteurized cheese, it would take 138 million servings to cause one case of listeriosis.

In percentages, FDA and Health Canada estimate that 3.2 to 4.7 percent of servings of raw milk, soft ripened cheese are contaminated.

On its website Health Canada states that eating raw milk cheese is generally safe, but it can cause serious health effects for children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with a compromised immune system.

“(These groups) should avoid eating cheese made from raw or unpasteurized milk, especially soft and semi-soft varieties (like Brie, Camembert, and blue-veined cheeses). Eat pasteurized milk cheeses in-stead.”

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  • since the Western Producer simply pumped-out the Central Party Line, to do with the risk of harm from eating raw cheese, please allow space for some facts. First : an Affidavit entered into the BC court action by Fraser Health Authority against our raw milk cowshare, utterly contradicts the deplorable way Health Canada parrotted the figures “cooked up” by the Centre for Disease Control.
    The Affidavit by Dr Ted Beals – one of the world’s experts on the topic – explains why the risk of food poisoning from drinking REAL MILK, or eating cheeses made from raw milk, is significantly lower than nearly any other foodstuff presented for sale in America.
    Fact is ; all the hysteria, lately, around raw milk is nothing but the death-throes of the dinosaur which was the milk marketing scheme, desperately flailing-around at people who present an alternative to the swill merchandised as “homo milk”. Not long from now we’ll see the last vestige of the Stalin-ist marketing boards, go the way of the Cdn Wheat Board – consigned to the manure -pile of history.

  • 3 days later, my comment on this article has not been posted. Is that because of time contraint, or is it more likely because the Western Producer genuflects to its major advertisers … the federal govt. and the corporations and race traitors in high places, who profit from poisoning the land? In which scenario, the Stalin-ist milk marketing scheme / industrialized agriculture, is the problem
    the milk processors are in the same position as was BigTobacco, for many years = knowing full well that their product was harming the public health, yet hiding that scientific evidence. THAT’s why BigAg is opposed to the Campaign for REAL MILK = because we are producing food and medicine, while what they sell is dangerous swill

    • Paul Yanko

      Gordon,

      Your original comment was posted to our site on Friday October 5 shortly after 4:30 p.m. I had already left work for the weekend.

      Sometimes, there’s a very simple explanation for why things are the way they are.

      I was taught in journalism school: when you hear hoofbeats, think horses – not zebras.

      Cheers,
      Paul WP web ed

  • Len

    A little perpective:

    (In the United Sates…) There will be more than 1 fatal accident for every 100 million miles travelled.

    The majority of those killed will be pedestrians who didn’t make the choice to be hit by a car. (As opposed to those who consume “dangerous products” of their own free will).

    If you only look at miles travelled in cities this number is probably 10 in 100 million.

    If the FDA and Health Canada were responsible for setting traffic standards there’d be no cars in our cities – way too much risk.