[Sca-cooks] raw milk

Kate Wood malkin at gmail.com
Thu Jun 10 13:47:53 PDT 2010

On Thu, Jun 10, 2010 at 4:26 PM, Dana Kramer-Rolls <danadkr at yahoo.com> wrote:

> hygienic practices.  My cats don't seem to have that horrible parasite,
> Toxoplasma, which passes in the feces and can cause blindness and death, but
> who knows, and they do traipse around my garden.  So do the squirrels,

Immaterial, unless you happen to be a pregnant woman who hasn't been
previously exposed to it, someone with a seriously weakened immune
system, or a rat. Somewhere around 11% of Americans and around 65% of
the entire world is seropositive for Toxoplasma antibodies, and the
worst it's likely to do to you is give you some mild flu symptoms.
Toxoplasma only "can cause blindness and death" in infants exposed in
utero (which I presume you also are not). Cases of adult toxoplasmosis
that cause more than mild flu symptoms on first exposure are extremely
rare. You could walk around barefoot in your cat's litterbox with no
significant risk.

In contrast, some (though not all) varieties of E. coli pose a
significant risk to adult humans. Given that one of the most dangerous
strains, E. coli 0157 (the one that usually makes the news by killing
eighteen toddlers or what have you) is commonly found in dairy and
beef cattle intestinal flora, this poses a much more significant risk
for raw milk consumption. This is due to potential transfer of E. coli
from cow udders to milking machines during milking. Most commonly, E.
coli 0157 infection will give you a raging case of diarrhea and
cramping. However, in between 2% and 7% of cases, hemolytic uremic
syndrome results, leading to kidney failure and, quite likely, death.
The number of E. coli 0157 organisms required to cause infection is
miniscule, and contamination is not detectable without laboratory
equipment. Not all strains of E. coli have the same effect -  some
cause simple food poisoning symptoms, while others are implicated in
chronic gut problems like Crohn's disease.

While you _may_ escape consumption of E. coli-containing foods, and
probably routinely do, the risk involved is orders of magnitude
greater, as a healthy and non-pregnant adult. One of these things is
not like the other, and the likely presence of Toxoplasma in your
garden is no reason to write off the known E. coli contamination of
your milk. If your raw milk supplier has E. coli contamination
problems, please find a new supplier.

For more information on the effects of E. coli, may I suggest
referencing the barf blog?

(Note: If you are tempted to click on the "gross" tag, be warned -
they mean it.)


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